Kashmir Indepth

Shepherd Community On the hope of justice for the centuries.

Story by: Ishfaq Shafi 
Chopan shepherding is a noble and serious profession dating back more than 6000 years. Being a shepherd means being responsible for the care of a flock and being a good steward of the lands they graze. It’s about surrendering yourself to the rhythms of the seasons, slowing your life down to match the pace of the animals and being ever watchful, ever vigilant. It’s about putting the needs of flock first, doing your absolute best for them and then worrying all the time anyway.
Chopan are the poor , pauper and an out caste community of the valley who does the job of rearing & breeding sheep of middle and upper section of the valley Chopan the shepherd is to the Kashmir valley as the Gajjar , Bakerwal , Ganddis & Changpa are the upper reaches of the state , Jammu and Ladakh regions respectively.  Chopan community sister concern of Gujjar / Bakerwal,  Gaddi & Changpa is a ignored section of the society which is socially economically & educationally an out caste & back ward community living nomadic life  they traveled thousand kilometers  of the Himalayan mountains and the meadows of Kashmir every year with their flocks of cattle, horses, goats and sheep.
Every year, just as the winter snows begin to melt in April, the community begins their journey with their livestock back to the alpine pastures for grazing during the summer, before returning in September as the weather worsens.As with all nomadic communities, the lifestyle of the  chopan shuttles between intense movement and utter stillness — it is like being privy to completely different ways of living. Shepherd doing all those jobs easy that who does not Archaeologists and speleologist they excavated many ancient things and caves.
‘Much about them is fascinating — from their woolen shawls that is woven in a manner to make it almost water proof, to their knowledge of the mountains and the many herbs that grow, they are a repository of knowledge on the environment they inhabit.Shepherds were an important part of the economy. Unlike farmers, shepherds were often wage earners, being paid to watch the sheep of others. Shepherds also lived apart from society, being largely nomadic.shepherds were fully integrated in society.Shepherd make a valuable contribution to the livelihood of the economically weaker sections of the society especially in the mountainous areas by its multifaceted utility of producing wool, meat, hides and manure etc. Wool is an important product of sheep which continuously grows on it and its utility and value depends upon its quality.
Wool and woolen’s are an in-separable part of life style in clothing, furnishing by the people across the globe. Wool is a natural fiber growing as body coat of sheep. It is all pervasive fiber from early civilizations to present times. Being Eco-friendly, it is likely to remain a choice fiber for warming up the humanity in future too.
Wool production entails maintenance and rearing of domestic sheep. This in turn provides livelihood to millions, the world over. In Jammu and kashmir  too a sizable population of tribal, nomads, rural and landless sections of the society is engaged in this profession. There is another bulk class of workers and artisans in rural and urban areas; cottage and organized sectors that earn their livelihood through wool fiber processing, knitting, weaving and manufacture of multi-variety wool wear, carpets, blankets, shawls, hosiery and a variety of woolens material.
Shepherd playing a key role to boost the GDP of the status and to provide lot of avenue for unemployment youth to establish their business units .
                But our  community faces a lot of difficulties due to long pending genuine demand of tribal status that  we deserve this status , every political party uses our demand for  their vote bank after coming power they forget all their promises .we have our own association in the name of Chopan welfare association who was established in 1996 they raise their voice time by time and demanding for their status but unfortunately no one is able to listen our long pending demand and give us justice . The main demand of our community is Back ward class / S T status to the chopan community, reservation in all Govt department in general at least 80% in Sheep husbandry Department ,  framing of ” Chopan welfare Board “on secretariat level , mobile schools and hospital for Chopans , special schoralship for chopan students on state as well as national level , insurance cover for Chopans and their live stock and Appointment of Chopans as shepherd on priority basis. We got some achievements .
1. The Jammu and kashmir Chopan welfare association got registered with reg No 3323 – S in 1998 under Act IV of 1998 (1941 A.D).
2. Resolution to include Chopan in S. T category was passed on 10th April 2000 in the J& K legislative Assembly.
3. File submitted to control Govt ( National Back ward Commission of India ) for approvel vide No SW/E 18 / 99 dated 11 – 10 – 2000 . Even though Two decades have been passed but we still waiting for justice thats we deserve . The same communities who live side by side us from Jammu-Ladakh and northern status have been already granted the S. T status . Then who can justify this discrimination towards Kashmiri shepherd and Chopan.
The Back ward classes commission in its report of 1956 described the back classes as consisting of the following groups :-
(a) those nomads who have no occupation of a fixed habitation .
(b) Communities consisting largely of agricultural or landless laborers,
(c) Communities consisting largely of tenants without occupancy rights and those with insecure land tenure,
(d) Communities consisting of a large percentage of small land owners with uneconomic holdings,
(e) Communities engaged in cattle breeding, or sheep breeding  on small scale,
(  f)Those tribes who are not get sufficient assimilated into the mainstream of the national life .
Our community face all these difficult and we deserve this status we request the higher authorities to look this demand on the humanitarian basis that is your kindness.
The writer is Govt Employees working in Agriculture Department and can be reached at ishfaqshafi428@gmail.com

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