Paharis moot meeting community in PoK for ST status drive
The Jammu and Kashmir Pahari Peoples Movement (JKPPM) has decided to meet leaders of their community in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) to decide a "combined future course of action regarding the drive for demanding Scheduled Tribe status".
JKPPM chief executive Shahbaz Khan said: "This step is for the welfare of the Pahari community on both sides of the LoC."
He said the organization has requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to allow them to visit PoK in this regard and meet the leaders of the community on that side.
Khan said the governments of India and that of the state have not heeded their demand to grant ST status so far and, therefore, they have decided to launch this campaign for the cause of their community.
There are about 45 lakhs Paharis in Jammu and Kashmir who mostly live in the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in the Jammu region and in Uri, Karnah and Kupwara in the Kashmir valley. Paharis constitute Rajputs, who can be Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and Gujjars, who are predominantly Muslim.
Shahbaz Khan said 70 percent of Paharis live in PoK while 30 percent reside in Jammu and Kashmir.
The JKPPM leader demanded that the prime minister allow them to meet their PoK counterparts so as to chalk out plans for the welfare of the community. He added that the permission for Pahari leaders to visit PoK "will also boost Indo-Pak track two diplomacy".
Gujjars were granted ST status in April 1991. There are about 12.5 million Gujjars living in Jammu and Kashmir.