Paharis and Paddaris – The Core IAS

Paharis and Paddaris


  • The government has brought a Bill to include four communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Jammu and Kashmir: “Gadda Brahmin”, “Koli”, “Paddari Tribe”, and “Pahari Ethnic Group”.
  • The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023 is one of the four Bills relating to the Union Territory.

ST communities now

  • The dominant ST communities in J&K are the Gujjars and Bakerwals, who mainly live in the districts of Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Kishtwar, Anantnag, Bandipora, Ganderbal, and Kupwara. Most of them, especially the Bakerwals, are nomadic — they migrate with their livestock to the higher reaches in the summer, and return before the onset of winter.
  • With a population of almost 18 lakh, the Gujjar-Bakerwal are the third largest group after Kashmiris and Dogras in J&K. They were given ST status in 1991, along with the two smaller groups of Gaddis and Sippis. This entitled these four communities to 10% reservation in government jobs and admission to educational institutions; in 2019, they were empowered politically after the Centre announced a 10% quota for them in Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in J&K.
  • The proposed expansion of the ST list has triggered unrest among the Gujjar-Bakerwal, who apprehend a shrinking of their share of the quota benefits pie. The Bill says the amendment “may entail additional expenditure on account of benefits to be provided to persons belonging to the said [four] communities”.
  • Gujjar-Bakerwal leaders are especially agitated with the proposed ST status for Paharis and Paddaris. Gadda Brahmins and Kolis are very small communities; also, according to the protesters, Gadda Brahmins are a branch of the Gaddis while Kolis are a sub-caste of Sippis — both these communities are already in the ST list.

Pahari Ethnic Group

  • The Paharis are Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, and include people of Kashmiri origin who settled in the districts of Rajouri and Poonch over a period of time. There are upper caste Hindus among the Paharis; also people who were displaced from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
  • In 1989, the J&K government led by Farooq Abdullah recommended that Paharis should be included in the list of STs along with the Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddis, and Sippis. However, the recommendation was rejected by the Registrar General of India on the ground that there was no caste/ tribe of that name in its records.
  • In response to popular demand from Paharis living in the border areas of Rajouri and Poonch districts — who argued that they lived in the same areas as the Gujjar-Bakerwals and faced similar social and educational backwardness — the government set up an Advisory Board in the past for Development of Pahari Speaking People. The Board defined Paharis as all people living in Rajouri and Poonch except those who were STs.
  • As the Paharis continued to clamour for ST status, the Centre sought repeated clarifications from the J&K government. In 2012-13, the J&K government commissioned a study, which its report supported the Paharis’ demand. Government sent the report to the Centre with its supporting recommendation; however, the case was rejected once again on the ground that Paharis were not an ethnic group.
  • Earlier in 2014, government had brought a Bill proposing a 5% quota for Paharis, but Governor refused his assent to the Bill.
  • The Paharis finally got 4% reservation in jobs and educational institutions in 2019. Also in 2019, the Justice (retd) G D Sharma Commission was appointed to identify groups that were socially, educationally, and economically backward. The Commission in its report recommended ST status for Gadda Brahmins, Kolis, Paddari Tribe, and Pahari Ethnic Group. The report was sent to the Tribal Affairs Ministry, and the Registrar General approved it in 2022.

Paddari Tribe

  • They live in the remote Paddar area of the hilly Kishtwar district. Spread over two tehsils, the Paddari homeland borders Zanskar (Ladakh) in the north and the east, Pangi in Himachal Pradesh in the south, and the rest of J&K in the west.
  • The 2011 census recorded the Paddari population at 21,548, comprising 83.6% Hindus, 9.5% Buddhists, and 6.8% Muslims. The people of the area, including those who have come from elsewhere to settle there, speak the Paddari language. 
  • Like in the case of the Paharis, the Gujjar-Bakerwal opposition to the proposed inclusion of the Paddari Tribe in the ST list is based on the argument that they do not constitute a single ethic group, but are a mix of individuals from different castes and religions who speak a particular language.