Fire destroys Van Gujjar settlement in Haridwar, families grieve as animals and belongings lost A Van Gujjar settlement burnt in Haridwar’s Shyampur recently. This led to a loss of almost a 100 animals and destruction of over 80 huts.

13, Jun 2024 | CJP Team

A fire broke out in the settlements of Van Gujjars, a marginalised nomadic group. This led to the destruction of 80 to 100 goats, three cows, and one buffalo. Due to the fire, the settlement located in the Shyampur police station area of Haridwar saw 80 huts burned, and over 22 families affected by the crisis. 

Homes and belongings burnt. 

It all happened on June 11, in the afternoon, when a sudden fire started in a hut in the village of Dasowala, located on the banks of the Pili River, and subsequently spread to nearby huts. The firefighting teams, along with the police, managed to extinguish the fire by nightfall. It took about three hours of intense effort to control the spread of the fire, with the teams continuing their work into the night.

As per reports, it took firefighters over three hours to control the fire, and even after that, five fire units have been stationed at the site as a precaution by the fire department. The administration has reportedly tried to make arrangements for the affected families.

According to the fire department,  scores of families were affected and had their huts and livestock destroyed. All belongings in the settlements were also reduced to ashes, leaving the families in crisis and without shelter. 

Images from Dasowala. 

SP City Swatantra Kumar Singh, CO City Juhi Manral, and Shyampur SO Nitesh Sharma also reached the site. Apart from police officials, CFO Abhinav also visited the site at night to examine the situation. FSO Shishupal Singh Negi had told the media that about five fire units have been deployed on-site as a precaution, with one unit called in from Roorkee and another called in from Laksar.

FSO Shishupal Singh Negi stated that there was no loss of human life, but some animals were injured. SO Nitesh Sharma mentioned that the fire probably had started from a spark that ignited while cooking on a stove. According to the police, the small sudden fire had broken out in a hut belonging to the Van Gujjars in the village of Dasowala. Shortly after this, the fire spread and engulfed nearby huts as well and people started running in fear. 

Upon receiving the information, a police team from Shyampur police station reached the site. Three fire trucks from the Mayapur fire station were also sent to the scene. The firefighting team started extinguishing the fire in the afternoon and continued till late in the evening.

The Van Gujjars are a nomadic tribe of pastoralists from the Himalayas whose livelihood primarily depends on their cattle. During the summer, they travel to stay in the mountains, and as winter comes, they come down to the plains and forests near rivers. The community travels in groups, moving from region to region with their families and livestock. 

The Van Gujjars reside in temporary wooden structures known as ‘deras, with each Dera housing a family. Many families, often related, travel and migrate together during the summer.  

The Van Gujjar community is an extremely  marginalised group that has been granted Scheduled Tribe status in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. As of now they get OBC status in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The community has struggled with eviction notices in the name of ‘forest conservation’, and are often not granted any rehabilitation. 


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A Day in the Life of Van Gujjars


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