Bakarwals and Gujjars are the third largest ethnic group after Kashmiris and Dogras inhabiting the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. According to the 2011 census, the Gujjars and Bakkarwals constitute 11.9% of the state’s population – 1.5 million out of 12.5 million.

Traditionally nomadic communities, with their names indicating the livestock they reared (Gujjars reared cattle, Bakarwals reared sheep and goats – “Gau” means cow, and “Bakara” is goat”), the communities have adopted somewhat different paths.

The Bakarwals of Jammu & Kashmir are predominantly Muslims and their way of life, language and customs are strikingly different as compared to their counterparts settled mostly in the plains of the state. Most of the one million Gujjars live in mountainous areas where they now depend heavily upon livestock rearing and small-scale agriculture. On the other hand the Bakarwals remain nomadic, and traditionally migrate to alpine pastures with their flocks of livestock for the summers. But even for the Bakarwals this is changing, as a significant percentage have settled in the plains owing to the increasing hardships the migration entails.