The Bakarwal (also Bakkarwal, Bakharwal, Bakrawala and Bakerwal) community is listed as Scheduled Tribes along with Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir in 1991.[2][3] As a nomadic tribe they spread over a large part starting from Pir Panjal Range to Hindukush to Ladakh located in Himalayan mountains of South Asia. They are goatherders and shepherds at large and seasonally migrate from one place to another with their herds. They are found in the entire Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, and in the Nuristan Province of northeast Afghanistan.[4][5][2]

A Bakarwal Jirga in Rajouri Jammu & Kashmir
Regions with significant populations
India India113,198 [1]
Pakistan PakistanUnknown
Afghanistan AfghanistanUnknown
Gojari, Bakarwali , Pashto, Hindko, Pothwari
Majority: Star and Crescent.svg Islam (98.7%) [1]
Minority: Om.svg Hinduism (2.3%) [1]
Related ethnic groups


In a number of British records, which include a caste survey and census conducted during 1861-1941, the Bakarwals are mentioned as Gujjar shepherds but in an Occupational Survey, they were listed separately as a cattle-rearing community.[6] The Gujjars-Bakarwals claim the same origin as Gujjar. The Gujjars are known by many names: Ajjadh, Dohdhi Gujjars, Banhara Gujjars, and Van-Gujjars. Among Gujjars, those who rear goats and sheep are called Bakarwals. Gujjars and Bakarwals share the same history, culture, language, sub-caste and racial identity. Anthropological and genetic studies conducted on Gujjars-Bakarwals conclude that they are not separate identities in any way. In 1991 the Gujjar-Bakarwals were granted tribal status in Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government after an exhaustive study. The study revealed that Bakarwal is another name for Gujjar and, as such, they were entered into revenue records as a separate tribal category according to the Indian constitution. Bakarwals belong to the same ethnic stock as the Gujjars, and inter-tribal marriages take place freely among them. There are a number of examples where one brother's name was entered in revenue records as Bakarwal while another was categorised as Gujjar.[7][8]


The term 'Bakarwal' is an occupational one and is derived from the Gojri word bakara[9] meaning goat or sheep, and wal[10] meaning "one who takes care of".[4] Essentially, the name "Bakarwal" implies "high-altitude goatherd/shepherd".[11]


The Bakarwals belong to the same ethnic group as the Gujjars, and inter-tribal marriages take place among them.[12] Bakarwals have clans (gotra) like Gujjars; however, "bakarwal" is also occasionally used indiscriminately to refer to any nomadic shephard group in the foothills, even those who may not belong to a Bakarwal community (qafila group). The Gadaria-Bakarwals have divided themselves into three principal kinship groups:

(i) The dera (household),
(ii) Dada-Potre (lineage),
(iii) the gotra (clan).

The Gujars are also very possessive of the land which they own to graze their livestock and this has led to some land conflicts between the Gujars and their neighbouring groups such as the Nuristanis. The Nuristanis believe that the Gujars are encroaching on their land. The Gujars believe that they need more land for their livestock since they are nomads so conflicts between the two groups have risen from time to time. The conflicts between the Gujars and the Nuristanis date back to the 19th century. In 1997, the Gujar villagers of Kunar Province also had a disagreement with the Taliban about their land and weapons (It is a tradition for Gujar villagers to keep weapons with them) being confiscated resulting in fighting between the tribal Gujars and the Taliban militants in which the Taliban were driven out of the capital of the Kunar province, Asadabad, by the tribal Gujar militants. Eventually however, an agreement was signed between the Taliban government and the Gujars in which the Gujars were allowed to keep their land and weapons but had to remain loyal to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.


As sheep and goat rearing transhumants, the Bakarwals alternate with the seasons between high and low altitudes in the hills of the Himalayas. This is why the Bakarwals as a singular tribe are stretched from the hills of the Hindu Kush in Nuristan to the hills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. They are mainly found in the following areas of Nuristan Province, Kunar Province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. From here, it is clear to see that the Bakarwals mainly follow a migration route through the foothills of the Himalayas as they can be found on the Upper Himalayan Range all the way down into the Lower Himalayan Range.[4]

Legal statusEdit

In 1991 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Bakarwals were first recognized as an Indian Scheduled Tribe. As of 2001, the Bakarwal were classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's general reservation program of positive discrimination.[13]

They (Gujjars) are mentioned in the Afghan National Anthem as one of the integral tribes present in Afghanistan. Lines from the Anthem reads:

هم عرب و گوجر است پامیری‌ها، نورستانی ها براهوی است و قزلباش است هم آیماق و پشه‌ای ها Translation in Engilsh "..With them, there are Arabs and Gurjars, Pamiris, Nuristanis, Brahuis, and Qizilbash; also Aimaqs and Pashais. This land will shine forever, Like the sun in the blue sky".


  1. ^ a b c "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Bamzai, Sandeep (6 August 2016). "Kashmir: No algorithm for Azadi". Observer Research Foundation. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Khatana, Ram Parshad (1992). Tribal Migration in Himalayan Frontiers: Study of Gujjar Bakarwal Transhumance Economy. Gurgaon, India: South Asia Books (Vintage Books). ISBN 978-81-85326-46-7.
  5. ^ Sharma, Anita (2009). The Bakkarwals Of Jammu And Kashmir: Navigating Through Nomadism. Delhi, India: Niyogi Publications (Niyogi Books). ISBN 978-81-89738-48-8.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Don't get divided: TRCF to Gujjars-Bakerwals". Daily Excelsior, Jammu. 23 February 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Sanskrit: बर्कर bakara
  10. ^ Sanskrit: पालक palaka "keeper"
  11. ^ Compare:, Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Dogri, Jammu and Pashto language terms.
  12. ^ Raha, Manish Kumar; Basu, Debashis (1994). "Ecology and Transhumance in the Himalaya". In Kapoor, Anuk K.; Kapoor, Satwanti (eds.). Ecology and Man in the Himalayas. New Delhi: M. D. Publications. pp. 33–48, pages 43–44. ISBN 978-81-85880-16-7. citing an unpublished paper by Negi, R. S. et al. "Socio-Economic Aspirations of Guijjara and Bakerwal"
  13. ^ "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 7 February 2013.