It was the spring of 1999 when a motley group of shepherds, who were doing their daily work in the mountainous Drass, saw a handful of men moving with guns toward Kashmir. Without losing a second, they ably passed on the information to the Indian Army with the help of their closely-knit network of people. The shepherds were none other than the Bakarwals.

These Bakarwals are very patriotic and had borne the brunt of the onslaught of Pakistani Army tribesmen in 1947 and all the other wars. They are the first one to be disturbed by the shelling from Pakistan as their hamlets on hilltops can be spotted across the border. These Bakarwals are not Kashmir centric all through India Bakarwal is not a religion but a profession.

As per Dawn, Bakarwals are a nomadic tribe, Sunni Muslims of Gujjar ethnicity. Like Drivers, but the Pakistani media under the pressure of ISI is making it a religious issue. It may be noted the castes in India have been based on their original occupation. It seems Pakistan has forgotten the basic organization of society in India.

A Bakarwal woman with her daughter and son

In 1991, the Jammu and Kashmir government added the community to the list of Scheduled Tribes. Thereafter, in 2001, the Indian government officially declared them as a Scheduled Tribe. This enabled them to be looked after by the government

Although they are now part of the mainstream economy, they continue to practice the ancient barter system as the supply of food and essential items is restricted in the hamlets located in the upper ridges of the Himalayas.

Today, they are in the limelight due to the horrific gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl belonging to the community in Jammu’s Kathua. Rapes in any country are criminal acts done by some who have criminal intent and not religious faith can justify such a brutal in inhuman crime.

A Bakarwal woman cooking at a makeshift camp

Unlike in Pakistan where minorities are forcibly converted into Islam India is a multi-ethnic and religious country and sometimes the crime is committed across religious and regional lines. This is purely an incident which Pakistan is portraying as if entire Muslim community in India is undergoing such criminal oppression. There are instances where Hindu girls raped by men of other religions. India never portrayed or criminalized or stereotyped those criminal incidents. Its better these Pakistani propagandists come to terms of rapes on boys and girls of the minorities in their countries first before raising a finger on India.