The charge sheet filed in the Kathua rape and murder case not only details the horrific manner in which a crime was carried out against an innocent 8-year-old but also reveals a larger picture.
The 8-year-old from the nomadic Muslim community of Bakarwals in Kathua was gang-raped and brutally murdered. The police say that this was done to create a sense of fear among the nomadic tribe. Several Hindus were opposed to them and accused them of cow slaughter and drug trade.
Who are the Bakarwal tribes?
The Bakarwal or Gujjar Bakharwal is a Sunni-Muslim nomadic tribe based in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountains. They are mainly shepherds and are found in the Kashmir region.
The Gurjar-Bakarwals claim a common ancestry from the ancient Gurjar tribe of India. Many Kashmiri Muslims including many Bakerwals and Gurjars migrated from the Valley to Punjab due to famine and policies of Hindu Dogra rulers, during the mid-18th Century. These people are traditionally Sunni Muslims.
In the year 2001, they were classified as Schedule Tribes under the reservation programme of positive discrimination. In the Afghan national anthem, they are mentioned as one of the integral tribes present in that country.
The Bakarwals belong to the same ethnicity as the Gujjars, and inter-marriages take place among them. Although Bakarwals have same gotra or clan-like Gujjars, many local shepherds, who may not necessarily belong to the community, are often termed as Bakarwal.