Bakerwals of kashmir living on the edge

Posted: October 5, 2007 in Blogroll, development

Bakerwals of Kashmir, Living On The edge.

After spending harsh winter in their hometown Riyasi, nearly 2000 Bakerwals, hailing from Riyasi are sprinkled at 150 different places in district Anantnag in south of Indian Administered Kashmir. Dispersed in small groups, the Bakerwals have pitched their tents in deserted open fields aside of the inhabited villages. Approximately 1000 members of the nomadic tribe have pitched their tents only in areas of Bumthan and Katran Mirbazar, villages located on National Highway.
Carrying hope for better livelihood even after crossing hurdles to reach their destination they are in dilemma by living despondent life due to lack of amenities. Taking them 20 to 25 days, crossing mountains, gorges rivers they have not succeeded in their hope of living better standard of life. Most are poor and lack drinking water, educational opportunities and health care. The local administration and politicians are callous to their needs.
Rearing livestock and cultivating farmlands in highland areas being their profession from generations they have not yet accomplished any development in any sense. Their so-called “destination” has turned ordeal for them. Now for their survival due to failure in the business of cattle rearing they have taken unusual professions like manual scavenging, hard physical labor work to meet the expense of both ends meal. These Bakerwals have numerous narrations’ to tell but accessibility to enlighten their narration has become impossible in this highly fraudulent and bureaucratic regime.
Zubair Ahmad, 47 year old man, leader (sarfirist) of these downhearted Bakerwals in the area whose job is to resolve all types of conflicts for maintaining peace and solidarity among themselves remarks “It is now almost a decade that we are coming to this place but with the passage of time it is getting difficult for us cope with the conditions here due to lack of facilities”.
The subsidies, which earlier used to be given to these subalterns for taking care of their cattle, have been curtailed drastically with the change in governments. Girl child is considered as huge liability in their families. Their educational rights are deprived from them because of the patriarchy existing in the community. It has become secondary question for these girls to assert their rights for education as right to live has been negated by social constructions prevailing in the community.
Educating male child is the only hope these Bakerwals have to live respectable life in future.
“I want make my child Abdul Satar a “big” officer despite the difficulties that will come in raising him” says Mewa Jaan.
Mumtaz Ahmad pursuing his bachelors degree in government college Khanabal says “It is tradition from decades to marginalise Bakerwals and instrumentalising Bakerwals by politicians in elections claiming pseudo upliftment of the Bakerwals has become common phenomenon”.
In the journey that takes from Riyasi to Anantnag crossing different barriers there is no point of medical facilities available to these Bakerwals.
“If there is any case of pregnancy everything is left to fate (khuda ke hawale)” says Zubair Ahmad.
Lacking accessibility to pure drinking water has led to the deterioration of the health of Bakerwals.
“We have to walk five kilometers to get water for our daily purposes” says Jameel Ahmad 8th class student studying in Akhran.
There is no provision in the government policies to provide them these basic amenities.
Electricity is like alien thing for these Bakerwals. In their five generations they have never seen their tents blanched with electricity. They take their dinner burning flames, which they get from forests.
Zubair Ahmad says “ we have to go to Malwan which is a forest area to get this wood in which we encounter numerous problems like people swear at us”.
They have to sleep before the normal time, as preserving wood is important for them. Their children can’t study at night due to lack of electricity.
These Bakerwals are still happy with the way the people are cooperating with them.
“Still people here are very cooperative and always come to our rescue when we are in melancholy, while comparing to cities where we are being treated as inferior version of human kind” remarks Mumtaz.
They are going to stay in their destination Anantnag for two months and then have to take their route to other destination Pahalgam. While their second destination means more pains to them because of Amarnath Yatri season.
“In Pahalgam we are being seen with suspicious eye and considered as abettors by the security men” says Arshad ahmad the only son of Zubair.

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