COVID-19: High-altitude grassland comes to life with movement of tribal nomads in JK’s Bhaderwah


Amid the COVID-19 outbreak that delayed the biannual movement of tribal nomads this year, the high-altitude grasslands of this scenic valley in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district have come back to life with more than 450 families from the community of Bakerwal arriving here with their cattle.

Tribal nomads, originally from the Kathua district and different parts of neighboring Punjab, crossed the 14,600-foot snow-capped Chattar-Gala pass on foot to enter the Chenab Valley with thousands of their sheep, goats and horses since one week.

The administration of Jammu and Kashmir has issued thousands of passes to nomadic tribes belonging to the Gujjars and Bakerwals over the past fortnight to facilitate their biannual movement, which usually begins from March to April, but has been delayed. this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

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Traditionally, the locals welcomed these nomadic tribes, who have frequented the many meadows of the Chenab Valley for centuries.

However, this year, residents seem to be a little afraid of their presence as they fear that some of them may be carriers of the deadly virus and may become an active source of the spread of the disease in the district, which was until present remained coronavirus-free. .

Responding to the apprehensions of residents, the district administration took various measures, including the establishment of several special health facilities for the screening of all nomads entering the twin districts of Doda and Kishtwar either by road or by crossing the high passes bordering the Bhaderwah Valley.

“Alongside the police and the army, we have specially hired the forestry service which was responsible for maintaining close surveillance 24 hours a day at all the entry routes into the forest area traditionally used by nomads, including including the snow-capped pass of Chattar-Galla, Kailash, Seoj and Padri Gali of Bhadarwah Forestry Division, ”District Development Commissioner Doda Sagar Dattaray Doifode told PTI.

He said forestry officials also register every nomad who enters the district via high altitude passes and send them to designated hospitals for counseling, a health check and necessary tests, only while they receive certificates and permission to travel further.

According to official figures, every year thousands of nomadic families from Bakerwals and Gujjars, along with their herds of cattle, travel to the high grasslands of the Chenab Valley, especially in the twin districts of Doda and Kishtwar. , during the summer months.

The herding families begin their journey to the mountain pastures for grazing during the summer, before returning to the warmer districts of Jammu in October before winter.

The nomads, however, have maintained that they are fully aware of the danger of the coronavirus and have taken all precautions in accordance with guidelines and notices issued by the government from time to time.

“We are from the village of Bathindi de Kathua and arrived here on foot after crossing snowy passes. All of us take all the precautions recommended by Kathua’s doctors and forestry officials here, ”said Sharafat Din, 70, who had reached the Jaie grassland of Bhadarwah, said, showing the stamp of the hospital on his forearm.

“We are fully aware of the danger of COVID-19 as you can see that we all wear face covers and maintain social distancing. We have been asked not to visit markets and populated areas, so we are following all instructions. because we know it’s for our safety too, ”said Shama Begum, 19, a girl from Bakerwal.


Chris B. Hall

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