Robert be Scheduled Tribes. The definition of tribes is

Robert Redfield’s
concept of Little Community has broad connotations in context of the Bakarwal
tribe of J as they possess a distinct way of living in respect of its
culture, language, economy, geographical area etc. Bakarwal refers to the
community engaged in the rearing of the goats. Bakarwals are mainly goatherds
and shepherds. They mainly follows the pastoral economy. Bakarwal is the third
largest tribe of J after Gujjars and Bot. There are 1,13198 Bakarwal
population of the total 14,93299 tribal population in J spread over
different districts. Bakarwals are found in Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, Jammu,
Kathua, Doda, Srinagar, Anantnag, Kupwara and Baramulla. There are total twelve
tribes in J of which eight tribes were listed in 1989 and four were added
in 1991. They are viewed as little community but in the impact of their contact
with the non tribal population as well as due to problems of transhumance way
of livelihood they are in a state of continues transition.

 

Introduction

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In Constitution of
India, Article 342 lays down that the President may by public notification
specify the tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purpose of
constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes. The definition of tribes is referred
in the form of identification rather than description. As a description they
are understood as inhabitants of the secluded dense forests and river valleys.
Tribes are viewed as small communities with their own distinct culture,  language, belief system, economic system and
way of living.  In this relation Robert
Redfield (1956) calls this type of group as ‘Little Community’ of little
tradition. According to him, Little Community is a small group of individuals
living together, which are having their own culture, and largely away from
large complex society. He has opined that little communities or small
communities have been a predominant form of human living throughout the history
of humanity. These little communities are generally in a state of isolation and
their culture and tradition are confined to this little or small surrounding
area which is called ‘culture area’. This particular geographical situation has
been a determining factor of moulding the culture of these little communities, which
is called ‘geographic determinism’. As S.C Sinha (1958) has observed that the
tribals are isolated in ecology, demography, economy, politics and other social
behaviour from other ethnical groups. Such historical image differentiates the
tribal communities from non-tribals and provides tribal identity.  Moreover Ghurye (1963) and Bose (1975)
explained tribes in terms of their interaction with the hindu society. Sinha
(1958) views tribe as a dimension of little tradition which can be understood
in relation to great tradition.  Ghurye
has called tribes as backward hindus. The word Indigenous is also replaced
tribe which was first used internationally in 1957 when general conference
of  ILO adopted a convention concerning
protection and integration of indigenous and other tribal and semi tribal
population in independent countries. The year 1993 was declared as the
international year of the indigenous people (Xaxa, 1999).

 

 According to Census of India, 2011 there is
8.6% of tribal population in India and J has 11.6% tribes of its total
population. . In Northwest India the state of Jammu and Kashmir has
considerable share of Scheduled Tribes in its population.  In J eight communities namely Balti,
Beda, Bot (Boto), Brokpa ( Drokpa, Dard Shin), Changpa, Garra, Mon and Purigpa
were notified as Scheduled Tribes vide the constitution (J) Scheduled
Tribes order, 1989 where as four communities, namely Gujjar, Bakarwal, Gaddi
and Sippi were notified as Scheuled Tribes vide the constitution ( Scheduled
Tribes) Order (Amendment) Act, 1991.

 

Bakarwal Tribe
of J

Bakarwal refers to the
community engaged in the rearing of the goats. Bakarwals are mainly goatherds
and shepherds. They mainly follows the pastoral economy. Bakarwal is the third
largest tribe of J after Gujjars and Bot. There are 1,13198 Bakarwal
population of the total 14,93299 tribal population in J spread over
different districts. Bakarwals are found in Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, Jammu,
Kathua, Doda, Srinagar, Anantnag, Kupwara and Baramulla. There are total twelve
tribes in J of which eight tribes were listed in 1989 and four were added
in 1991. The bakarwal tribe is considered as the most backward among tribes of
J with lowest literacy rate and sex ratio.

 

Methodology

Bakarwal population is
a transhumance community that resides in Himalayan and Shiwalik ranges. Mainly
they are found in hills or foothills. During winters they move down the hills
in the month of October or November. In the month of April again they start shifting
towards the hills. The study is an ethnographic account of the Bakarwal tribe
residing in the surroundings of Kathua and Jammu district of J. These two
districts were selected to cover the vast population of the Bakarwals as in
both the districts the Bakarwals follows distinct routes.  The Bakarwals that surrounds the Jammu region
comes from the districts of Srinagar and population surrounding the Kathua
region moves from Kishtwar. For the present study Bakarwal population is
interviewed with the help of unstructured interview schedule. Purposive and snowball
sampling method is used for the purpose of study. Focussed group discussion is
also used to understand the community way of living.  Also for the purpose of the study 15 deras (patrilineal
joint families) are taken from Kathua and 12 deras from Jammu are chosen.

 

Cultural
Characteristics:  Field work observations

 

1. Area and Climate

The habitat of the
Bakarwals is the hilly terrain. The average altitude of the terrain is around
1800-6000 feet above the sea level. Climate ranges from 5-20 degree. The
climate where the Bakarwal population is living affects its food habits, dressing
and housing. The process of transhumance among the bakarwal population covers
the distance of 400-500 kms in 2.5 months (about 5-10 kms in a day for approximately
2-3months). There are mainly two routes which are followed by them. One route
is Kishtwar-Kathua (Marwah-Baderwah-Padder-Sarthal-Basohli-Mahanpur-Kathua) and
the other route is Anantnag-Jammu (Pahalgam-BanihalTunnel-Ramban-Sanasar-Udhampur-Nandani-Nagrota).
They have been allotted forests area for grazing of their cattle in the hills
as well as in the foothills. They pay the grazing tax called as ghas charai
Maatoo which also acts like a permission to move from the Himalayas to the
shivaliks.

 

2. Economy

Bakarwals follow
pastoral economy. They possess a special breed of the goats which is called as
the mountainous goat. Bakarwali goat is big in size having long body hair, long
ears, heavy in weight and needs low temperature to survive. The goat cannot
survive in the hot climate so why bakarwals have to move during summers. They
prepare milk products from the milk of the goat to sell in the market. The
ropes can be prepared by the goat’s hair. Moreover the goats are also sold in
the market for meat purpose. One goat can be sold in the market ranging from
4000-15000 depending upon the amount of the meat to be provided by the goat.
Different families of bakarwals possess goats ranging from 50/60-800/1000. To
purchase their routine goods goats or milk products can be sold in the market.
Other than goats bakarwals also possess horses, for carrying their luggage
during migration, bakarwali dogs for security and to safeguard the herd during
night time. 

 

3. Dress Pattern and
outlook

The Bakarwals of
J&K possess tall personality with the Jewish features. They are normally
seen with the long beard without moustaches. 
Based on the area and climate, bakarwals wear warm clothes. Bakarwal men
mostly wear Salwar Kamiz (up to knees), Vasket and turban (which they call Safa).
 Women mostly wear Salwar Kamiz, Dupatta
and embroided cap. In the bitter cold men also use coat and shawl (Loii made up
of sheep wool). Women also wear the silver ornaments.

 

4. Food Habits

The main staple food of
the Bakarwals is Maize as it gives warmth and strength to the body needed
especially in winter. Bakarwals are dependent on pastoral economy and they do
not grow maize themselves rather purchase it from the local market. With maize
cake ( makki ki roti) they consume leafy vegetables, plants collected from
forests,  salt tea (which they call noon
chai), milk products like lassi, kalari, ghee etc prepared from goats’ milk.  They are mostly non vegetarians. In the
marriages the food items which are served involves meat, rice and salt tea.

 

5. Family patterns

Family as a basic unit
of Bakarwal social structure is predominantly the patrilineal and patrilocal
joint families. The inheritance of the property is also from the father’s side.
The pastoral economy of this community demands the joint and extended families
as the occupation requires more family members to take care of the livestock.
All the sons share the father’s property equally i.e male equigeniture. The
bakarwals wherever they settle either for a short while or for the season
prefers to settle in the families of 5-10 households.

 

6. Marriage

Bakarwals prefer to
marry within their own community. They are endogamous. Cousin marriage is
allowed among them. Except few relations like Father’s sister (Bua), mother’s
sister (massi) and real sister they can marry with any other relation. The
marriage ceremony is held at the home of the girl mostly during day time and
the bharat is returned in the evening. Based on the Islamic Dairy (according to
Panchang or lunar calendar) the priest (maulvi) or any other person who can
read that fixes date of marriage with consultation of the other party.

 

7. Health issues

According to the
respondents the health issues are tried to be solved with the traditional
medicines. They spend their maximum time either in hills or in the foothills so
it is not possible for them to assess the modern allopathic medicines from the
market so they prefer to  use their
knowledge of cure and healing. They have the knowledge of herbs and shrubs to
be used for various ailments. The pregnant women and the neo natal are also
treated with that medicines. They have mentioned few herbs like banaksha for
common cold and fever, Kuth for joint pains, chora for snake bite  etc.

 

8. Religious practices
and ceremonies

All the Bakarwals
interviewed during the fieldwork follow Islam as religion. Bakarwals follows
the Sunni sect of Islam. They believed that they have converted from Rajputs to
Islam. They have different divisions on the basis of certain castes as they
have castes named- Khatana (considered higher and aggressive), Bajad, Jaangal,
Kasana, Lejwal, Thikriya, Doyee etc.dg Various religious activities of the
muslims like five time prayers, fasting in the month of ramzan, Id-ul-fitr,
Id-ul-azha, Nauroz  are observed.
Baisakhi is also a prominent day for the Bakarwals (not celebrated in the hindu
way) as they start their transhumance after this very day.  Most of the planned ceremonies like khutna,
offering for any fulfilled desire (garawvi for mannat in the name of the peer)
are arranged during the winters as it is easy for them to arrange in the
foothills. If any death happens in the way during migration they use to bury in
the way and offers prayers in the way at ever migration.

 

9. Political formations

Each clan has its own
chief (male) who is respected much among all and he is consulted at the time of
dispute. Moreover the priest (Maulvi) also plays significant role in the
execution of the Muslim law as well as to solve major disputes. They prefer to
keep their disputes out of courts and police stations.

Most of the political
formations are combined formations of Gujjars and Bakarwals. However Gujjars
occupy dominant position in all type of formations probably because of their
large population size. Most of the social organisations are also combined e.g.
Gujjar Bakarwal conference, All J Gujjar Bakarwal conference, Bakarwal
united front, Gujjar Desh Youth body etc. there is one student organisation
struggling for the cause of Gujjar and Bakarwal students i.e. Gujjar Bakarwal
Student’s Welfare organisation.

Jirga
is a panchayat of Gujjars and Bakarwals where matters of community concerns are
discussed and decided. A study conducted by Tuffail (2014) found 58% of
respondents in his study still practice Jirga. But over a period of time its
importance has been decreased. Some respondents observed that Jirga is now
being controlled by mainstream political parties. Other observed that Jirga is
operated by economically rich among the community.

There is no political
party of their own or exclusively working for the cause of Gujjars and
Bakarwals. Most of their leaders are either associated with mainstream
political parties or have their own interest/pressure groups but in both the
cases interests of Gujjars predominantly occupy the space. It was observed
among the respondents that Bakarwals are aware about their exclusion among the
political scene. Even Bakarwals do not have any independent social or political
organisation of their own.

 

10. Ajri system

The bakarwals having a
considerable number of goats hire care takers for their goats. The care takers
are called as Gwals or Ajri. Ajris are mainly families of poor bakarwals who
have no other option for survival other than to become a labourer. But they are
not the simple labourers who are given the cash for their services but this a complex
system where the generations of bakarwals are forced to become ajri owing to
their poverty and lack of opportunity or skill for their subsistence. Rao
(1995) explains that in many pastoral societies there exists an imbalance
between labour availability and access to pastoral resources. This imbalance
can lead to certain sections of population offering their labour to those who
have capital and/or access to resources, but are short of working hands.

 

11. Education

The formal education
among the bakarwals is marginal. Due to their frequent migration formal
education is disrupted in every 5-6 months. The mobile schools for children are
not efficiently functional as the teachers are not available to migrate with
them. Moreover the schools are up to the primary level. The literacy rate is
lowest among the bakarwals.

 

12. Risks and
complicacies to the life of Bakarwals

Bakarwals possess the goats
and horses which can be easy prey to wild animals. In forests where bakarwls
move there are big cats (chitra), bear (richh) and wild dogs. Moreover the
jackals also harm the young ones of the goats. The respondents also narrated
some incidents of encounters with wild animals. However they are not allowed to
kill the wild animals because of prohibitions on killing wild animals by
government. The goats mainly the young ones who are born during migration when
come to the foothills consume the plants which are life staking for them. Due to
that bakarwals suffer the loss of the goats. They reported that on an average
during winters 20-30 goats lost their life in the foothills.

 

Also in the name of
conservation of the forests (the green gold) fencing has been done to demarcate
forest areas. At other places the forests are given to wild life department. In
both the cases the communities’ dependence on the forests suffers. Some people
reported that the bakarwals are forced to be evacuated at some places and
threatened not to come out of the dense forests.  

 

Tribes in
Transition

To record the changing
patterns among the bakarwals a sample of 20 settled households have been
interviewed (10 from Kathua and 10 from Jammu). Interactions were held using focused
group discussion technique. Bakarwals have not left their whole way of living but
the dynamics of change is observed among them. The tribal culture is now losing
its originality and is either dissolved into the mainstream or being faded in
the impact of local population of that area. The settled Bakarwal population is
more inclined towards the mainstream culture whereas the feeling of belongingness
towards their own culture is decreasing. From the fieldwork among the settled
population of the bakarwals various changes have been observed:

 

a.  Area and climate

Regarding the area and
the climate the bakarwals have adopted are in the process of the adoption of
the settled life. Earlier seasonal migration was the normal feature of the
community. But now they have chosen foothills for their permanent settlement.

 

b. Economy

The economy of the
bakarwals is shifting from seasonal migration to settled habitations. Some of
them have left the occupation of goatherders i.e. the rearing of the
mountainous goat which cannot survive in bitter cold and bitter heat. Few
households have not entirely left this occupation but one member of their joint
family is still engaged in this occupation. Some have also adopted to rear the
local goat (desi goat). Some households have adopted agricultural economy. The
rich bakarwals has purchased land for agriculture where they grow different
crops like wheat, maize, rice, millets, pulses, mustard etc. In addition to it,
the settled families encourage their children to get formal education,
government and private jobs for their survival.

 

c. Dress pattern

Regarding dress pattern
it has been observed that the younger generation do not want to wear the
traditional dresses of bakarwals but the elderly still follows the same. Settled
population use to wear the dresses like the local population.

 

d. Food habits

The food habits of
settled bakarwals have changed to a great extent. The consumption of meat and
milk products has declined. Meat, maize, salt tea and milk products have been
replaced by vegetables, rice, Lipton tea with sugar, chapatti etc. In marriages
also variety of meat is served with rice, vegetables, sweet dish etc.

 

e. Family

The structure of
patrilineal joint /extended families has undergone a change. The households
consist of nuclear families as with the change of the economy the requirement
of maximum family members to take care of their livestock has declined. The
settlement pattern of the these tribe is in such a way that whole of the
patrilineal joint/extended family resides near to each other and in real sense
they are not nuclear families but are functionally joint families.

 

f. Marriage patterns

Earlier the marriages
were preferred to be arranged between the cousins but younger generation
prefers to marry outside their families. The marriages are still among the
cousins but some young people have said that they will prefer to marry outside
their families. Moreover educated and rich bakarwals have marital relations
with Gujjars and other Muslims of the area.

 

g. Health Issues

With the change in
living and food habits the health issues among the bakarwals has risen. The
diseases which were earlier missing have been increased now among the settled
Bakarwals. They are suffering from obesity, high blood pressure, thyroid,
diabetes etc. These are the newly emerging health problems for which they
search treatment in allopathy because the traditional medicines are not able to
cure.

 

h. Education

The settled community
has an advantage to access formal education for their children. They prefer to
send their children to schools rather than to other activities. This has
probably increased literacy rate among settled Bakarwals.

 

i. Political Formations

There is an increased
political participation among the settled Bakarwals. They are aware of the
elections and voting rights. Moreover they are also participating in the Panchayat
elections of their area. Access to Panchayat and other governmental
institutions for dispute settlement has also increased.

 

Conclusion

To conclude it can be
said that the Bakarwal Community has its own cultural practices and surviving
potentialities. They practice their distinctive identity owing to their own
cultural ethos. Bakarwals which can be referred as the “Little Community” is in
continues change. The population that still follows the transhumance Bakarwal
way of living is still large in number but due to lack of encouragement by the
government to their culture and heritage they are struggling for their
survival. The mainstream preferences are totally different and contrary to
their living conditions. The formal education requirement to become the member
of mainstream society is marginal among them. They are opting to become settled
communities.