No ST status to Pahari speaking people: J

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Srinagar, Feb 17 (UNI) Opposing any move to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to non-tribal Pahari speaking people, the Gujjar and Bakerwal Scheduled tribes in Jammu and Kashmir have threatened to vote against the legislators ''working against the interests of the community''.

''We wrote letters to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and National Conference chief patron Dr Farooq Abdullah urging them to stop their legislators and other leaders from working against the Gujjar and Bakerwal community,'' Haji Shamsher Ali Boken, State President of the Gujjar Bakerwal Joint Forum said.

He said the ultimatum has been given in the backdrop of media reports that 10 legislators belonging to both the PDP and NC had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi last evening, demanding grant of ST status for the non-tribal people, speaking Paharis in the state.' The group of legislators was led by Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, he said and demanded to put hold and check the ''anti-Gujjar activities of the legislators and party functionaries''.

Mr Boken threatened to begin a state-wide agitation and expose the legislators, who had been elected with the active support and votes of Gujjars in the state.

He said, ''Tribal nomad Gujjars constitute 20 to 25 per cent of the total population and holds a key in over 13 constituencies in the state Assembly.'' ''We will boycott both the PDP and NC in the next Assembly election later this year if there is no change in their anti-Gujjar attitude,'' he said.

Mr Boken alleged that Mr Biegh was not only ''misleading'' his PDP party but was also ''deceiving'' the coalition government.

This could create a communal tension in the state, especially in border belts, he warned.

He alleged that Mr Beigh was a ''real enemy'' of Gujjars who wanted to grab the legitimate rights and constitutional safeguards available to the community. It was because of this that in 2006, he was instrumental in passing a resolution in the state Assembly demanding grant of tribal status to Pahari speaking people.

Paharis are neither tribal nor nomadic in character and they are not socially, economically and educationally backward, Mr Boken claimed.

He said Paharis were already enjoying reservation under three different categories--RBA, ALC and OBC-- in different areas.

''The demand of Pahari speaking people is merely based on language while the dialect or the language is not any criteria to declare any class as ST'' the letters said.

UNI BAS HS BST1627

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