”We are Van Gujjars”
During the 1990s the Van Gujjars, transhumant forest pastoralists who have their winter camps in the Shiwaliks in Uttaranchal and the northern part of Uttar Pradesh, made use of the concepts of tribal and indigenous rights in an ongoing conflict over nature conservation. Below I discuss the struggle, which was initiated in 1992 with the introduction of a national park at the central part of their winter pastureland. A part of the struggle for empowerment for this group was the formation of a new cultural identity, the Van Gujjars. At the start of the conflict the nomadic Gujjars in Uttar Pradesh were just one marginal and not very well known Gujjar group among many others in northern India with no special claims to a tribal identity. This changed as the Gujjars and their conflict over the proposed Rajaji National Park escalated and attained media fame and what came out of the movement was the Van (forest) Gujjars as a tribe with indigenous rights to forest and its produce (Gooch 1998).