Inclusion of Paharis in ST List Raises Concerns Among Gujjars, Omar Abdullah Denied Visit to Rajouri; Mobile Internet Suspended

Inclusion of Paharis in ST List Raises Concerns Among Gujjars, Omar Abdullah Denied Visit to Rajouri; Mobile Internet Suspended
  • Omar targets BJP over denial of permission to visit Rajouri

  • Mobile internet services suspended in Rajouri, Poonch

A day after the Bill granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Pahari-speaking people and some other groups was passed in Lok Sabha, mobile internet services in Rajouri and Poonch were suspended as members of the Gujjar community expressed anger over the step of the Centre.

Leaders of Gujjar community said that they would go to the Supreme Court once the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill is passed by Rajya Sabha and challenge it.

Gujjars and Bakerwals, a tribal nomadic group which already enjoys ST status, had earlier asked the Centre not to go ahead with the Bill granting ST status to Paharis, Paddari tribe, Gadda Brahman and Koli community. The reason for the anger among Gujjars is that they believe that the Bill would dilute their quota under ST status.

Both Gujjars and Paharis have significant population in Rajouri and Poonch district and sensing trouble, mobile internet services were shut in these areas. The police also imposed restrictions on gathering of groups of people.

The Gujjar leaders expressed anger and said they would challenge the Bill once it is passed by Rajya Sabha for its “constitutional validity”. Anwar Choudhary, convener of All J&K Gujjar and Bakerwal Co-ordination Committee, said “The Bill once passed by Rajya Sabha will be analysed and if it dilutes the status of ST of Gujjars and Bakerwals, the community will go to Supreme Court and challenge it”.

“The police are not letting the activists of the community come out and even speak for Gujjars. A ban has been imposed on us,” said Choudhary.

Meanwhile in a message, the Poonch police stated that some provocative comments, statements and videos are being posted on social media platforms causing concern for law enforcement agencies.

“It is essential to remind citizens to exercise restraint and avoid engaging in such activities. Additionally, legal action shall be taken against those who persist in making such remarks or sharing provocative content,” the police stated.

The administration of Jammu district issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 and asked individuals and news platforms to avoid posting information which has the potential to disturb communal harmony and cause breach of peace.

Sensing the seriousness of the issue, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in a statement said that the Centre has ensured that the inclusion of new communities in ST list will have no impact on current level of reservations available to Gujjars, Bakerwals and other tribes.

“After the Bill is cleared in Rajya Sabha, the UT administration will issue necessary notifications ensuring that the people included in the existing list of ST continue to get the same level of reservation,” the L-G stated.

To douse the simmering anger among the Gujjar community, BJP chief of J&K, Ravinder Raina, said that the Bill would elevate the status of Paharis without disturbing the quota of Gujjars and Bakerwals.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said the gates of his house here were locked by the police and he was escorted to his office like a “criminal” to stop him from visiting Sunderbani area of Rajouri district.

Taking potshots at the BJP and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Singh-led administration, the former Chief Minister said, “This has not happened for the first time.”

“And as the (Lok Sabha) elections draw closer, I am sure such curbs will witness a spurt,” he told reporters at the party headquarters here.

Responding to a question that he was denied permission as the authorities were apprehensive that his visit might flare up the situation due to tension between the Gujjars and the Paharis, Omar quipped, “That means the government is weak and I can disturb the situation all alone.”

“I am feeling lucky that I have become so powerful that the government is afraid of me that they need to lock to keep me at home. It is good they are praising me. I have never thought myself so powerful but now I have to rethink it,” he said.

As a precautionary measure for the maintenance of order after the Lok Sabha passed “The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024”, the authorities suspended mobile internet services in Rajouri and Poonch districts on Wednesday.

The step, officials said, has been taken to curb the “spread of any message that can be dangerous for peace and order.”

Officials said that mobile internet services were suspended early Wednesday morning, in the Pir Panjal sub-region. “All the service providers temporarily suspended internet services. The step has been taken purely on ‘precautionary’ grounds,” they said.

“It is a preventive measure taken to ensure that no hate message spreads in the society,” said officials, adding that the decision to restore the mobile internet services would only be taken after a review of the situation.

On the other hand, security arrangements in terms of Law and Order (L&O) were beefed up and all the concerned authorities were put on ‘alert mode.’ “Adequate security arrangements have been put in place and all other necessary steps have been taken,” officials said.

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