The ignored Chopan community

Ishfaq Ahmad Chopan

Chopans, reside in every nook and corner of Kashmir Valley. Economically and socially a backward class, they deserve special status like Scheduled Tribe. They are landless, serving as shepherds, raring sheep and goat, moving to hilly places during summer. Legislative Assembly had also passed a resolution in 2000, and recommended Scheduled Tribe status for them. Hopefully, the government will consider all these recommendations.

Excerpts:

 

The Community:

 

“Chopanis a community residing in every nook and corner of Kashmir valley. Economically and socially a backward class, the Chopan community also deserve a special status like just schedule tribe. But the game of politics has miserably tested and deceived the community for decades. Chopans who are the landless backward people professionally serving as shepherds in thevillages   raring sheep and goat of farmers. They move to hilly pastures during summer with their livestock. It is here to note that the world renowned writings about Kashmir “The valley of Kashmir” by Sir Walter Lawrence mentions Chopan as a shepherd or “pohl” of Kashmir. He observed Chopan as a cheery, active man who lives a healthy life in the hilly mountains very close to nature. He also mentions the role of Chopan in the society and his knowledge of various medical herbs found in pastures which they often bring and provide to common masses and native doctors.  Living a nomadic life for months and from centuries my community remained far behind this exposed world of opportunities. But the first and the foremost cause of this whole trouble can be credited to altered governments who have befooled us for the decades and used us as a favourable vote bank.  It is most interesting to note that the remarkable light was seen when the recently collapsed Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party collation government mentioned our concerns in its common minimum programme and promised ST status to the Chopan community during its tenure. Continuing with the history of false promises, nothing was debated or provided to the community before the government came to a crushing end. However, assuring a special status to the community in their common minimum programme was not something that drastically happened. There was infact a great role of Jammu and Kashmir Chopan Welfare Association(JKCWA) which was established in December 1996 for the welfare of deprived Chopan community”.

 

The Reservation Issue:

“Instead of following supporting facts till now there is zero percent of reservation for Chopans in general merit or open merit. The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution on 10th April 2000, in which it was recommended to the Central government that the Chopan community should be given scheduled tribe status. Chopan tribe has also been declared as a nomadic tribe with reference to the National Commission for the de-notified, nomadic,and semi nomadic tribes,2015. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment enlists Chopan community of Jammu and Kashmir at serial number 33 for the inclusion of Chopan community for ST status. Jammu and Kashmir Commission for backward classes have observed Chopan totally similar in job to “Gaddi” community who are working as shepherds in the upper Himalayan areas and are already under scheduled tribe category. In regard to all this both state and central government have miserably failed in providing any kind of justice to Jammu and Kashmir Chopan community. The promise of improving the socio-economic condition of Chopancommunity has proved as a hypothesis of no proof. In addition, the local affiliated bodies like Veterinary Department has also failed in launching any kind of significant programme that could have improved socio-economic condition of Chopan. Justice delayed means justice denied and it fits in our matter. It is of course the urgent need of time to full fill the promises before the next generations of our community are tested and made victims of injustice”.

[Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir; November 10, 2018].

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