J&K – The issues around the state

Setting right the focal point of Jammu and Kashmir tribal politics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 332

Mains level: Paper 2- Reservation for STs in Jammu and Kashmir


The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission has recently shared its interim report. One of the salient features of the report is the proposed reservation of nine seats for Scheduled Tribes (ST).

Reservation for STs in Legislative Assembly

  •  It is for the first time that seats have been reserved for the ST community in the Legislative Assembly of J&K.
  • The commission has also proposed reserving seven seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs).
  • In the erstwhile Legislative Assembly, there were also seven seats reserved for SCs, but there was no such reservation for STs.
  • This denial of constitutionally guaranteed reservation under Article 332 post-1991 when four communities (the Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddis and Sippis) were granted ST status is a pointer to the harsh reality that discrimination has largely been deliberate.

Issue of reservation for STs in J&K

  • No role of Article 370: Nothing in Article 370 has prevented the provision of political reservation to STs or extension of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 to J&K.
  • The presence of Article 370 has often been given as a reason for the absence of reservation for the tribals in J&K though this is untrue.
  • Reservation for SCs: SCs in J&K had reservations even before the dilution of Article 370, and it was provided under the J&K Constitution. 
  • This lack of political will stemmed from an unwillingness to share power with groups ethnically and culturally different from both Dogras and the Kashmiris, the two predominant power groups in J&K.

What has changed now?

  • The dilution of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and the subsequent Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 changed political dynamics in the region.
  • As far as tribals are concerned, it promised them political reservation under Article 332 and led to the extension of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  •  Essentially, it has changed the nature of tribal politics in J&K as well, which had largely centered around these two major objectives.

Way forward

  • Economic and social empowerment: The focus of tribal politics has to shift toward the economic and social empowerment of tribal communities.
  • Implementation of the Forest Rights Act has to be a major issue as it has the potential to significantly empower these communities.
  • The political mobilization of STs began many years ago, and the interim report has thrown up new challenges before STs than merely empowering them.
  • Awareness: It will not change after reservation unless there is an awareness and conscious attempt by the leadership to prioritize tribal interests over party politics.
  • Political relevance: The tendency to limit tribal politics to Rajouri and Poonch (which the interim report has also done) is the extension of past practice though the reality is that more than 68% of the ST population lives outside these districts.
  • Political relevance is a major challenge that tribal politics in J&K faces.
  • Community leaders, especially tribal youth, need to understand the significance of the tribal vote.
  • Tribal politics also have to address the political, social, and economic empowerment of marginal tribes such as the Bakerwals, Gaddis and Sippis.
  • Women empowerment: Women have to play a major role in tribal politics, and their participation and leadership have to be made feasible and suitably promoted.
  • They have proven their leadership in the District Development Council (DDC) elections, and it needs to be strengthened further.


The focus of tribal politics has to shift toward the economic and social empowerment of tribal communities, with a special focus on the effective implementation of welfare schemes and policies for STs in J&K.

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