Gujjar or Pahari makes the difference in Rajouri politics

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Rajouri, Nov 21 (UNI) Finally what matters is being Gujjar or Pahari in the western bordering areas of Jammu! All promises revolving around development, unemployment or better education lose their impact when it comes to the community the voter belongs to in the bordering constituencies of districts of Rajouri and Poonch.

Gojri speaking Muslim community of Gujjars and Pahari speaking people, comprising both Muslims and Hindus, in the bordering districts make the virtual difference in the political equations in bordering constituencies.

Understanding the ground realities in these district political parties, too, choose their strategy accordingly and weigh the winning ability of candidate considering the community he belongs to. This trend of political parties has ensured that the divide of Gujjars and Paharis never gets narrowed.

There is huge resentment among Pahari speaking ethnic community after the Gujjars were given Scheduled Tribe status in Jammu and Kashmir. ''Gujjars enjoy benefits in government jobs but our community has been deprived of this,'' says Javed Malik, a Pahari, resident of Darhal.

While Paharis are demanding ST status for the community, Gujjar bodies openly protest against any such move now and then. ''The ST status is our right because we are ethnic tribal community and we will not like to share it with the Paharis,'' said Choudhary Aslam of Rajouri.

At least 37 per cent of population in Rajouri is of Gujjars while rest is largely Paharis, which comprises the rest of permanent residents in the district, said Dr Javed Rahi, an expert on Gujjar tribe.

The population of Poonch district where Assembly elections were held in first phase on November 17, comprises about 43 per cent of Gujjars, he asserted.

Emphasising on Rajouri, Dr Rahi said, ''Darhal constituency has maximum 68 per cent Gujjar population in the district. This compels political parties to field Gujjar candidate for Assembly election.

Minimum 15 population of Gujjars lives in Nowshera segment.'' He, however, asserted that political equations in the bordering district further depend on castes and sub-castes of the candidates.

''Elections mainly turns into Gujjars versus non-Gujjars in Poonch and Rajouri districts,'' Dr Rahi said.

The non-Gujjars, he said, include the population of Pahari-speaking Muslim Rajputs, Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus (including Sikhs).

This political equation in bordering constituencies, however, gets imbalanced with the rebel candidates of parties and other candidates of same community joining the election fray.

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