Van Gujjar, is a wandering tribe of the Himalayas. In the winter season, the Van Gujjars migrate with their herds to the Shiwalik foothills, and in summer, they migrate higher into the Himalayas and spend their summer months in the wilderness with their cattle. They sell milk to the nearby Himalayan villages in exchange with money and other life sustaining goods.
I met one such tribe while on a three day trek to Churdhar peak (3650 m). It usually takes few hours to reach churdhar from Sarain village in Chopal, but we choose a different route where we found few of these tribes.
Not only do they live a very difficult life in the wilderness but are often harassed by the forest officials who demand free milk and other milk products. Their temporary shelters are burnt when the move down in the winters. Gujjars blame the forest officials while the forest officials blame the locals. “The aid is already passed by the center government but our tribes in Jubbal and Chopal district get nothing.”, said Yusuf, member of a Van Gujjar tribe. “We were provided a teacher for our kids and a vet for the cattle. They came for a few weeks and then never showed up”, he continued.
Whatever the real situation may be, these hospitable tribes will always be there to help you in the dense Himalayan Forests.