Travelling with the Van Gujjars: Tracing a forest-dwelling nomadic tribe’s spring migration

The Van Gujjars, who trace their origins back to Kashmir, first came to the Shivaliks some 1,500 years ago; today, they are distributed across the many northern states. Their lives essentially revolve around their buffaloes — their only real asset, given that the milk is their only source of income and is vital for their sustenance as well. As a result, their wellbeing is of prime importance to the Van Gujjars. As Benanav puts it, “Van Gujjars were like doting servants to their buffalo masters.”

“This idea of keeping indigenous, forest-dwelling people out of national parks is really just part of the way that conservation has been implemented for long. The idea is that human beings by definition are an invasive species in nature, and to protect it, they must be kept away. As a result, we have people who can be called conservation refugees affected by this green imperialism,” Benanav explains.

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