J&K: Rumors of Amit Shah's Pahari reservation announcement trigger protests
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is likely to announce a reservation for the Pahari community during his Jammu and Kashmir visit, reports said on Monday. His expected announcement to categorize J&K's Pahari community as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) has triggered a furor in the union territory. Shah—who's scheduled to reach Jammu late on Monday—will be visiting Rajouri and Baramulla over the next two days.
Why does this story matter?
- The possibility of the Pahari community getting the ST status has triggered political tensions in J&K.
- The Gujjars and Bakerwal tribe members, who already enjoy the ST status in J&K, have reportedly been angered by the news.
- Experts say the issue of Paharis being recognized as STs and becoming a reserved community is being resented by the other two groups.
Home minister may make the announcement in Rajouri
According to The Tribune, Home Minister Shah is expected to make the announcement at his rally in Rajouri on Tuesday and, purportedly, grant reservations to over nine lakh Paharis in the UT. On Monday, Justice GD Sharma (Retired)-led J&K Commission on Socially and Educationally Backward Classes recommended a reservation be granted to the Pahari-speaking people. Sharma also submitted the panel's report to the government.
Gujjars in Poonch worried about announcement
Rajouri reportedly has a significant population of both Gujjars and Paharis. However, in Poonch, Gujjar community members threatened to take to the streets to protest if the Centre grants the ST status to Paharis. They even claimed Gujjars still suffer from poverty, discrimination, and backwardness. "Surprisingly, politicians from the [Pahari] community have maintained silence on the issue," Gujjar leader Jameel Kohli told The Tribune.
Electoral benefit of granting reservations
As per reports, members of the Gujjar community staged protests in Shopian on Monday and demanded the Centre to not fiddle with reservations in J&K. Granting the ST status to Paharis, however, may be a big political boost for the BJP to win maximum seats in the soon-to-be-announced J&K elections. Shah's three-day J&K visit is also being viewed as the BJP's first election campaign.
JKNC leaders come out in support of Pahari reservation
In a surprise twist, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) leaders expressed support for granting Paharis the ST status. Senior JKNC leader Kafeel ur Rehman told NDTV, "Community comes first. Politics later. We all should join the rally... If we don't achieve ST status today, we will never get it." He told supporters that 20 buses were ready to take them to Shah's rally.
BJP wedging a divide, says Mehbooba Mufti
Former J&K CM and People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti has alleged the BJP is attempting to divide communities using the reservation card. She appealed to Gujjars, Bakerwals, and Paharis not to fight. However, ex-Deputy CM Muzafar Baig—who resigned from the PDP in 2020—also expressed support for Shah. Meanwhile, tensions were reported in the Pir Panjal (Rajouri-Poonch districts) region ahead of Shah's visit.