Gujjars appeal to PM for special package

Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s two-day visit to Kashmir from tomorrow, Gujjars of the state have sought a comprehensive socio-economic package to resolve their pending demands.

Srinagar: Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh`s two-day visit to Kashmir from tomorrow, Gujjars of the
state have sought a comprehensive socio-economic package to
resolve their pending demands.

The demands include opening of a tribal university,
inclusion of Gojri language in Eighth schedule of Constitution
and a special census of nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals.

"Gujjars had been demanding a tribal university in the
state prior to 2007 when the first-ever National Tribal
University was established in Madhya Pradesh. This demand is
still pending with the Centre," said Dr Javaid Rahi, National
Secretary of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, a
frontal organisation of Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to Rahi, Gujjars constitute 20 per cent of the
total population of the state.

The university, if established, could promote studies and
research in tribal art, culture, tradition, language, custom,
medicinal systems, forest-based economic activities, including
special studies in the flora and fauna, and advancements in
technologies relating to natural resources of the tribal areas
of the state, he said.

"The case for inclusion of Gojri language in the Eighth
schedule is pending with the Union Government since 1991 which
is adversely affecting the development of tribal culture of
Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir," said Rahi.

The community demanded that a special census be conducted
of lakhs of nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir
who are presently under seasonal migration along with their
livestock in the upper reaches of Northwestern Himalayas.

He said Gujjars are demanding raising of a full-fledged
`Gujjar Regiment` in the Army on the pattern of Jat, Rajput
and Dogra Regiments since 1947, which is still pending with
the Union Government.

The organisation also appealed to the PM to provide a
"special rehabilitation package" for lakhs of Gujjars and
Bakerwals in the state, besides constituting a task force to
ensure speedy implementation of development schemes in
Gujjar-populated areas.

The community demanded job share in central government
and special employment drive for Gujjars.

Ahead of PM`s visit, Sikhs demanded a special package
for them alleging successive state governments have neglected
the community.

Various Sikh organisations met here and appealed to
Manmohan Singh for a special package for the "marginalised"

The Sikhs said they should be accorded the minority
status in the state.

Such a move would entitle them to all benefits
attached with the status, Sikh leaders said.

The meeting also demanded setting up of a Sikh varsity
on the pattern of Islamic University in Kashmir.

It also wanted setting up of a department of Punjabi
in Kashmir University.

The Sikhs asked Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to
fulfill the promises made by his father Farooq Abdullah to
give representation to members of the community in the state

They condemned the inaction of successive state and
central governments to bring to justice the killers of 35
innocent Sikhs at Chithisinghpora in Anantnag 10 years ago.

Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP)
appealed to separatists, including the Hurriyat Conference
leadership, to engage themselves for talks with the PM.

"We appeal to the leadership in the Kashmir Valley,
particularly Hurriyat Conference to talk to the Prime
Minister, who is coming with an open heart and mind to talk
with all sections of political groups in valley," its chairman
Bhim Singh told a press conference.

Hailing the visit, he said the visit of Singh was a great
gesture and most significant for the welfare and development
of the state.


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