Home Minister Amit Shah arrived in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday evening in particularly challenging times in the Union Territory, and these challenges manifest in his itinerary for three days beginning Monday – most likely announcement of Scheduled Tribe Status for Paharis, which the community had been asking for decades. This is a critical fill in the gap of the relations between Paharis and Gujjars and Bakerwals who were granted this status in 2001, enabling them reservation in jobs, admission to professional institutions and availing of special projects conceived and implemented for the tribes across the UT.
But there is an underlying message for the people in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir to make them think that how things are transforming in this part of Jammu and Kashmir, with Delhi showering all gifts and grants and taking the human development to next level. while the PoJK residents, were suffering as the Pakistani establishment uses them to take forward its agenda on Kashmir, but doing little or nothing for the population there.
The significance of this visit and this particular element, in which it is widely anticipated that Shah will make this announcement in Rajouri on Tuesday – on the second leg of his three-day visit, and it would be repeated in Baramulla on Wednesday. Rajouri district borders Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir on the south of Pir Panchal range of Himalayas, while Baramulla is in north side of it, and also borders the territory across the Line of Control, or LoC, that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
There is a substantive Pahari-speaking population in the Rajouri-Poonch belt of the border, and so it is on the north-western Kashmir districts of Baramulla and Kupwara districts. All these districts are having substantial Pahari-speaking populations. Of greater significance is that the Pahari-speaking population is in majority in PoJK. Therefore, it holds a very important message for the population across the LOC – that tribes and Pahari-speaking people in Jammu and Kashmir have been granted special privileges in terms of jobs, higher and professional institutions and significant place in the legislative bodies.
The population in PoJk is being ruled by the Pakistani establishment and they are denied their basic needs and their demand for basic rights is crushed by the military force. In fact, the PoJK doesn’t figure much in the national thought of the Pakistan government. There is a growing feeling among the residents of PoJK that they are being treated as second-class citizens.
Their worries have also multiplied as their land has been used by Pakistan, particularly in Muzaffarabad , Kotli, Rawlakot and Neelum Valley for training terrorists in training camps. They are given arms and ammunition training, which is infecting the local youth, who are also being pressurized to join the ranks of terrorist outfits – Jaish-e-Mohammad, lashkar-e-Toiba. Apart from that, the local population is angry that their protests against the terrorists are being suppressed by force. The terrorists among them are polluting the local culture and ethos. The terrorists for training have been brought from different parts of Pakistan, especially Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The people are feeling that they have lost their voice and thinking of alternatives.
On the contrary, this side of the LoC is becoming a model for infrastructural development and human development. The Centre is working hard to lift the life styles of the people. And the expected announcement of the ST status for Paharis is just one more step in this direction .
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