By Dr. DALIP GOSAIN
The Muslim tribal Gujjars of Himachal Pradesh exhibit varied ways of ‘Lifestyle’ viz pastoral, semi-nomadic and settled centering around dairy farming. They remained isolated from the mainstream of society, maintaining their own traditional cultural identity, but being in transition a few of them have adopted the settled mode of living, but are still keen on rearing buffaloes as their main family occupation.
This paper deals with the a groping study of Gujjar women in different facets, who mainly draw their livelyhood from buffalo rearing in the peri-urban and forest areas of Himachal Pradesh. Although they are mostly illiterate, have poor un-irrigated land holdings in tough terrains, they contribute significantly to the main society by providing dairy milk and milk products.
The present study was conducted in Indora block of district Kangra and in Amb block of Una districts Of Himachal Pradesh depicting the different ways of life style of Gujjar women deciphering transition and social evolution. Data were collected from five Gujjar women from villages of Indora block of Kangra and from 20 respondents from different villages of Amb block of Una district using structured schedule and focused interviews.
According to Winick’s dictionary of Anthropology, a tribe is a social group usually with a definite area, dialect, cultural homogeneity and unifying social organization. Everyman’s Encyclopedia refers tribe as a group of primitive or barbarous clans under recognized chiefs. A ‘typical’ tribe is the one, which exhibit an isolated ecology, demography, politics, economy, and other social relations from other ethnic groups.
Next to Africa, has the largest tribal population in the world. Belonging to over 550 communities, though only 427 are officially recognised, and forming 227 ethnic group, the tribes of India number 67.8 million constituting over 8 percent of the total population of the country as per the latest population census (Kurup, 2000).
“Tribes are primarily seen as a stage and type of society. They represent a society that lacks the positive traits of modern society and thus constitutes a simple, illiterate and backward society. With change in these features on account of education, modern occupation and new technology etc. tribal society is no longer considered to be tribal” (Xaxa, 1999). Transhumants are the backward people living in jungles, more or less isolated, tending to be self-sufficient with limited interaction with other societies governed by their traditional councils.
In Himachal Pradesh, a north Indian state, where a sizeable population consisting of Hindu and Muslim Gujjars reside in the various parts of the state with variation in population concentration show all transition stages of transhumants to settled Muslim tribal Gujjars. The tribe derives its name either from the Sanskrit word “Gujar”, the original name of their earliest habitat, Gujrat (now one of the states of India) or from Gochar i.e., cow grazier (Crooke, 1896), the latter term showing that originally they were cow keepers and not buffalo keepers as they are at present.
A large number of Gujjars of H.P. still stick to their ancestral profession of buffalo rearing and selling of milk and milk products. They were formerly nomadic and like to live in the interior of the forest. Even today the women have hardly any chance to come in contacts with non-gujjars, the men have contacts with others when they visit markets or the forest range other development agencies.
In the present study it was found that inspite of the transition stages of the Gujjar tribes the dairy framing is the prime occupation of most of the respondents. In Indora block of Kangra District as all the 12 Gujjar families of Lodhwan and 14 of BriKhad villages were engaged in this profession.
It was found that the selected respondents had poor un-irrigated land holding of average half acres. The majorities of the respondents had nuclear family with average family size of 7 members and were illiterate. The herd size mainly comprising of buffaloes ranged from 9-23 animals. Although majority of them used to migrate seasonally to the forests of Chamba district with their buffalo but the Gujjr families have now settled partly at these location in Kangra district. It was found that only three families from Barikhad and five families from Lodhwan villages were seasonal migrants to allotted pasturelands of Dhar Mumri and Khoru Dhar of Bharmour Tehsli of Chamba district. They have practiced transhumance, i.e. seasonal migration between fixed summer pastures in the Chamba district for generations. These families move with utensils, eatables, clothes, bedding etc, in the month of April and come back in the month of October every year.
Bano Bibi a respondent of Barikhad explained that since childhood she is had pastoral livestock-rearing life style that had become increasingly difficult due to the thinning of forest over the years. She moves on to the allotted pastureland by the forest department of Chamba district with 12 buffaloes and her husband from April-September while the children stay at home with other family members.
Majority of the Gujjar women who migrate to allotted pasturelands start three days after the men start the journey with buffaloes and join them by bus at the first halt. These transhumants prefer to move at night so to avoid traffic hazards during daytime. For retaining the land and movement of the flock of buffaloes around Rs.1, 500 were spent and in turn they have a gain of Rs.15.000 by saving money on feeding to the animals as they get lot of green fodders from these pastures. The milk produced during the transit and while at the different locations of Chamba district is an additional income to these tribal Gujjars.
Settled Gujjars: All the selected respondents from various villages of Amb Block of Una district of Himacah Pradesh (H.P.) were settled. Majority of the Gujjar women were studied up to primary only, having nuclear family with the average family size of five members. Table I shows the comparative profile of the pastoral and settled Gujjar women of H.P.
The Gujjar women carried out all of the dairy management operations such as bringing in fodder, providing drinking water, milking, cleaning of sheds, whereas breeding in animals, calving and the administration of medicines were shared activities with male family members.
Capacity Building in Dairy Farming:
The Gujjar women play a significant role in dairy farming remained ignored by the policy makers and planners in providing them training on scientific dairy farming that could have lead in improved socio-economic condition of these tribal Gujjars. Under the Integrated watershed Development Project (IWDP) operated in Kangra and Una districts of H.P. the Gujjar women were sent fro the first time to the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) located at Karnal In Haryana State of on an exposure visit.
These selected beneficiaries were shown the elite herd of cross-bred cattle and ‘Murah’ breed of buffaloes at the cattle yard of the NDRI and at few local dairy farms in a nearby village. Although they were engaged in dairying for many decades, but it was strikingly observed that they were not aware of the elite breed of “Murrah” buffalo and were keeping low producing buffaloes.
They were taught that the high-yielding breeds of buffaloes and combination of cross-bred cattle could improve their economy through scientific dairy farming. Majority of the respondents stressed that under IWDP the elite breeding bulls be provided, as all villages do not have proven bulls those could improve the progeny of the buffaloes.
Although under the IWDP the Village Development Committees (VDCs) were constituted but it was found that majority of the beneficiaries of tribal Gujjars were not members of these VDCs. None of these have ever attended any training programme on scientific dairy farming. Training is a process by which desired knowledge, skill, attitudinal changes are inculcated and re-enforced in an individual. Today’s Gujjar woman is keen on improving the socio-economic status of her family by adopting modern technology in the traditional occupation of dairying. Balkis, a Muslim Gujjar girl from Dhargujran village of Amb block in Una district was ardent in knowing technological advancements in the dairy sector. Hassan Bibi, from this district claimed that she had a buffalo, which was in 14th lactation and she was still interested that the buffalo should conceive indicating the affinity for rearing elite buffaloes.
Ascertained training needs on scientific dairy farming indicated that 65 per cent of the Gujjar women from Una district and 60 percent from Kangra district were interested to attend training programme on scientific dairy farming of five days duration. The venue of the training programme was preferred at the Village or the block head quarters. Remaining beneficiaries of these districts preferred to undergo a training programme of three days at the NDRI.
It was observed that special programmes were essential to train the tribal Gujjar women in scientific dairy farming. Conservative Gujjars need be ascetically educated to scientifically improve their breed of buffaloes. It can be concluded that Gujjars who live in the rural areas of H.P. contribute significantly to the rural and urban economy by providing milk and milk products. Being committed to their cultural tradition it is imperative that special attention need be provided to this tribe of H.P. so that they improve their socio-economic condition through improved dairy farming. Various developmental agencies should concentrate their efforts on dairy development for Gujjars. The introduction of high-yielding breeds of buffalo and cross-bred cattle could improve the economy of the Gujjars.
The writer is Senior Scientist & Head KVK & DTC National Dairy Research Institute (Deemed University) KARNAL132 001 Haryana.
The artice is also available at http://www.gzyn.com
By Dr. DALIP GOSAIN