This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Amar Saeed. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How The ‘Modern’ World Is Alienating The Gujjar-Bakarwals Of Kashmir

More from Amar Saeed

The nomadic pastoralists of Jammu and Kashmir, also known as the Gujjar-Bakarwal community are a transhumance community of the Himalayas.

They undertake a biannual migration with their flock between the pastures of Kashmir and Ladakh during summers, and the plains of Jammu in winters. 

The Gujjar-Bakarwals are a nomadic, pastoralist community from Jammu and Kashmir. Representational image. Photo credit: Times of India.

Historically, they have been known for their immense knowledge of the ecosystems that they traverse.

Across their migratory routes, their daily activities benefit the environment as they: conserve local soil and water, seasonally maintain the grasslands, regulate the frequency of forest fires by limiting excessive growth, and keep invasive plant species in check by weeding them out. 

Despite their symbiotic relationship with the environment, they are falsely blamed for biodiversity destruction by the government agencies, especially the Forest Department, leading to policy making that goes against the members of the community.

These policies favour sedentism, which goes against the nature of the Gujjar-Bakarwal community. 

Today, the nomadic lifestyle of the community is considered backward by the state as it does not rely on private ownership of land, which is considered modern within the Indian socio-economic framework of land use. 

This clash of ideologies between the nomadic community and the neo-liberal state has led to the community facing backlash in the form of sociopolitical exclusion and harassment, under the pretext of development.

This has gotten worse during the Covid-19 outbreak, as the government guidelines are not inclusive of the Gujjar-Bakarwals.

As Afreen Faridi, a PhD scholar in the department of law and governance at JNU, Delhi, writes, “Since the pandemic began, there has been an exponential increase in the number of administrative and social limits placed on the community’s mobility, so much so that the socio-economic consequences have been irreversible for many members.” 

Illegal Evictions and Marginalisation

The Muslim identity of the Gujjar-Bakarwal community has lead to stereotyping, harassment and mass evictions, which have been on the rise since 2014.

As Shahid Ayoub, a PhD scholar at Kashmir University from the Gujjar-Bakarwal community who has worked on the ground, spreading awareness on Forest Acts within his community, said in an interview:

“In recent times the government has been focused on how to evict people with increased effect as polarisation throughout the country was on the rise. The brunt was faced by the muslim community in Jammu, especially the nomads that spend six months in kashmir and then they migrate to Jammu.”

The J&K forest administration has been sending eviction notices with a short response time period in the highlands of Kashmir. The local administration even tried evicting them without notices, which led to attacks on the members of the Gujjar-Bakarwal community, leaving several hurt. 

There have been reports of terrorising the community as was seen during the Asifa rape case in 2019, wherein an 8-year-old girl from the Gujjar-Bakarwal community was brutally raped and murdered by politically-backed Hindu men.

There has been an increase in the cases of cow vigilantism in the Jammu region. There were reports of the nomadic community being excluded from the dairy business which caused economic distress within the community. 

Faridi writes that, “Contrary to the central government’s claims of emancipating the nomadic community of J&K with the abrogation of Article 370, one has only witnessed increased marginalisation and disenfranchisement of these pastoralists.”

This can be seen with the new J&K Land Laws under which any land can be used for industrial purposes. Under the new set of laws, the government has allowed the armed forces to take over land in Kashmir after declaring it as “strategic”. 

Lack of Representation and Accessibility

As Ayoub states, “Gujjar-Bakarwal community is the third largest ethinic group in J&K, but when it comes to political representation and social status, they are nowhere to be seen. They are equal stakeholders, but not seen as such.”

This lack of political representation has isolated the community from livelihood schemes and policies. It has prevented them from claiming insurance schemes and demanding compensations for the loss of their flocks in natural calamities. 

In academic spaces, we see very few members of the Gujjar-Bakarwal community and the census shows a low literacy rate within the community. The education of children of the community has gotten worse during the pandemic.

Children from the community have gotten further excluded from education during the pandemic, because they don’t have smart phones and the Internet to be able to access online education. Representational image. Photo credit:

As Faridi writes while explaining the impacts of public-private partnership models on the nomadic, pastoralist community of Kashmir, “The shift to online education has hardly considered their contexts of low digital literacy, unaffordable smart devices, and lack of internet access.” Under these circumstances, the pastoral children are being denied the right to education. 

Poor access to healthcare has been another problem for the community during the lockdown. Increased dependency on digital solutions, including access to vaccination has exaggerated their marginalisation.

Without mobile internet and smartphones in the mountains, a majority of the members of the nomadic community remain invisible to the Indian vaccination programs. 

As the Gujjar-Bakarwal community continues to be marginalised and alienated in the social, political and economical sense, we, as society, need to break the stereotypes against the nomadic community.

It is high time we realise that the Gujjar-Bakarwal community are the real stakeholders of the forest they inhabit, the government must take cognizance of the same by including the community in its policy making processes to ensure that their policies are fair, non-discriminatory and beneficial. 

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program
You must be to comment.

More from Amar Saeed

Similar Posts

By Krishna Kant Tripathi

By The Third Eye

By Heena Ojha

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below