With a strenuous lifestyle and distinct physical features, herder families commonly known as Gujjars or Bakarwaals from Kashmir number around 100,000 people.
Their Travel Destinations
Conventionally, they travel between Himalayan mountains and the meadows of Kashmir every year with hundreds of their animals. Just as the winter begins to subside, this community starts its journey back to alpine ranges. They remain on these pastures before returning in September as the weather turns cold.
The Nomadic Lifestyle of These Tribes
From the woolen clothes to their knowledge of mountains and flora/fauna everything about these tribes is fascinating.
In essence these tribes are the workforce of nature awarded with the duty of guarding the environment in two seasons through which they travel and live in. The close relationship that they share with the mountains is awe-inspiring. They seem to be one with nature.
New Challenges Are Affecting Their Way of Life
Their journey takes about 3-4 weeks. However, in recent years on-going development projects en-route their journey has made it very difficult for them to complete their travel in this time.
Additionally, the traditional route has also become a cross road for many trade and tourist activities that causes disturbances for their animals. This has led them to choose alternate ways through more treacherous treks. Those treks too contain high risk of landslides partially due to the natural erosion and blasting by the mining companies trying to extract minerals.
Not only this but upon return to Kashmir in summers, they also find it difficult to find pastures that they previously used. The tourists and local communities are now reluctant to let them use their land for it affects their income generation activities in tourism.
Such modern age activities have led most of the members of the tribe to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and are now looking for odd jobs in cities.
Similarly, their contact with modern society has also had a sinister impact on the environment. With their shopping preferences (both personal and household), leads them to carry their belongings in plastic bags and modern packaging. Because of this most of their residing pastures are now experiencing polythene pollution. Though the community has as much right to education, food and healthcare as everyone else, the cost is paid by environment.
This Might be the Beginning of the End for Kashmir’s Nomads
However, recently the younger generation is experiencing a change in attitude and life style preferences. With the advent of expanding tourism to remote areas, mining and the use of technology, the young of these tribes now fancy an urban lifestyle. This means that the elders have lesser people to pass their indigenous knowledge on to next generation.