COVID19: ‘Thousands of sheep, cattle will die if seasonal migration is delayed’

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Gujjar, Bakerwal write to LG

Srinagar, Apr 5:  In view of the lockdown to avert the spread of deadly coronavirus, the nomadic Gujjar, Bakerwal tribes have written to J&K Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu expressing their apprehension that delaying bi-annual seasonal migration to upper reaches beyond April 15 can lead to deaths of thousands of cattle and sheep due to heat stroke.

While the Gujjar and Bakerwal people have agreed to follow the guidelines and remain where they are, they also fear that if they delay the migration beyond a few weeks, the cattle and sheep will bear the brunt of rising temperatures in Jammu.

Written on behalf of the tribal population by Dr Javaid Rahi, Founder of Tribal Research & Cultural Foundation, the letter requests the LG to direct the concerned agencies to formulate a comprehensive plan in consultation with the local tribal elders to address tribal migration issues.

The letter, a copy of which is with The Kashmir Monitor, reads that the temperature is on the rise in the plains of Jammu and the  nomadic Gujjar, Bakerwal, Gaddi and Sippi  tribes, as per their tradition, are set to start their seasonal migration with their herds of buffaloes, cows, horses,  goats,  and sheep towards the upper reaches of the Shivalik, Pirpanjal and Trikuta mountains in greater Himalayas.

“Some of them have to migrate within their native districts, some have to move inter-district and a majority of them have to cross over to Kashmir and Ladakh to spend five months in pastures, Dhoks and Behaks,” it says.

The letter adds that if tribal migration does not start in time, there are apprehensions that hundreds of thousands of sheep, goats and other animals will die as they cannot bear the hot weather.

“Some will die due to a shortage of fodder,” it reads.  

The letter reveals that for inter-province migration, tribes adopt migration routes, including the Jamiya Gali, Gora Batta, Nanansar, Ropadi Dharhal Pass, Banhal pass and Mughal Road. For migration towards Himachal Pradesh, they use Kukdi Top, Doda, and other routes.

In the meantime, Dr Rahi has advised the tribal population to follow social distancing and avoid all types of religious, cultural and social congregations and rituals.

He appealed the tribal population to delay their seasonal migration at least up to April 14 in view of the lockdown imposed by the government and stay home for their safety and security.

The tribal communities constitute around 15 to 20 percent of the total population of Jammu & Kashmir.  Among them a large chunk of Gujjar,  Bakarwal, Gaddi and Sippi who are pastoralists/ nomads migrate to lower, middle and higher mountain ranges in the north-western Himalayan mountains bi-annually with animals.

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About the Author

A journalist by chance with over five years of experience in reporting, editing, and bucketing local, national and international content for my current organization. I have covered education, health, politics, and human rights. I like working for a daily, though I occasionally try my pen in long-form to connect personal narratives with history.

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