The Gaddi Pastoraliast Community

 

For centuries, Gaddi pastoralists have been herding goats and sheep in the Himalayas. Listed as a scheduled tribe by government of India, Gaddis trace their ancestry to Bharmour in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. They use forests, high altitude commons, village commons and privately-owned land for grazing their livestock.[1]They are settled in villages close to Kareri Lake like the Reoti and the Kareri Khas and use the land near Kareri Lake as pastures.

The tribe has been known to practice long distance herding of sheep and goats. Gaddis are considered as semi-nomadic or transhumant, as most of them have obtained permanent dwellings in Kangra valley and indulge seasonal movement of livestock.[2] Their repeated movement from one ecological niche to another to viably encounter seasonal extreme conditions of nature in the Himalayas (from Shivaliks to Lahaul) pushes this tribe under the category of transhumance.[3]According to many historical sources, Gaddis’claim to these high-altitude resources was based on customary usage. These customs were enforced and policed by robust institutions of transhumance over long distances from the Punjab Shivaliks through the Dhauladhars of Kangra and to the alpine meadows of Bara Banghal and Inner Himalayas.[4]Lack of contemporary observations have led to a creation of uncertainty around the precise nature of pastoral activity in Himalayan region and its environmental impact.[5]

Most of the Gaddi shepherds’ customary alpine tracts are in the eye of a storm brewing in the foothills of the Himalayas. Dams, National Parks and expanding infrastructure interfere with their nomadic trails.[1] The shepherds are not compensated in cases of acquisition of customary grazing lands into national parks, dams or other projects unlike the farmers.

The Gaddis move from high pastures to low pastures during the year, leaving for low hills and plains in October and returning to their fields in April.[2] After spending the late winter grazing in Shivaliks scrub forests, in early April, the herders begin their ascent northwards, moving along the low mountain ranges that separate Shivaliks from the Dhauladhar.[3] By early May, the Kangra Gaddis arrive in their villages, mostly located on the lower southern slopes of Dhauladhar Range.[4] The spend the next two months grazing village forests and higher elevation forests of the Dhauladhar (including Kareri Lake).[5]The months of May and June are used to harvest the winter crops and to prepare the fields for monsoon.[6] They spend their summer in Lahaul and Spit, and the Trans-Himalayan Region north of the Pir Pangal.[7]

 

[1] Vijay Paul Sharma, Ilse Kohler-Rollefson, John Morton, Pastoralism in India: A Scoping Study 10 (Department for International Development, 2003).

[2]Id.

[3]Id.

[4]Id.

[5] Ajay Kumar from RTDC (Phone no: 9816776027); Manish Sharma, Forest Guard Kareri (Phone No:9816460074)

[6]Id at no. 18.

[7]Id at 18

 

[1] V. Ramprasad et. al. (2020). Plantations and pastoralists: afforestation activities make pastoralists in the Indian Himalaya vulnerable, 25(4) Ecology and Society.

[2]Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul, Transhumance and Customary Pastoral Rights in Himachal Pradesh: Claiming the High Pastures for Gaddis, 18(1) Mountain Research and Development 5, 7 (1998) [hereinafter, ‘Claiming High Pastures for Gaddis’].

[3]Bibhash Dhar, Anthropology and Transhumance, inHuman Ecology in the New Millennium 151, 152 (Veena Bhasin, Vinay K Srivastava & M.K. Bhasin eds., Kamla Raj Enterprise, 2001).

[4]j.b. Lyall, Final Report of the Regular Settlement of Kangra 1868-72, xviii  (Government of the Punjab, 1872).

[5]Claiming High Pastures for Gaddis, 9.