The consideration of the Gujjar people living in the Western Himalayas as ‘a tribe or forest people’ is not only a question of categorizations but also that of the modalities of recognition of their rights. This presentation intends to question the way these two acceptations were forged and its effects on the livelihood of the Gujjar today. The reports or documents written by the administrators during the colonial period influenced the way the Indian governments thought about its public policies after the Independence. If the Gujjar families have settled near the villages in the valleys inhabited by the main population, they also continue to spend several months every year in the hight pastures with their buffaloes. While they may access certain services intended for them based on the benefits associated with the classification as scheduled tribes, they are deprived from the basics access to health and education when they spend time in the forest area regulated by the Forest Department. Therefore, the understanding of the Gujjar as a tribe seems to remain incomplete without the consideration of their rights as forest dwellers as recognized by the Forest Right Act of 2006.

In my thesis, I tend to explain how the distinction of the life near the villages and within the forest should not be opposed but thought in relation. The written documents form a narrative that can be reconsidered through the lens of the oral culture specific to the population. When present in the forest, the members of the Gujjar community are allowed to disclose their oral literature, as they cut grass on the steep slopes or accompany their animals to graze. An attention to their orality allows to consider the way in which they think about their social relations and the sustainability of their livelihood, in their own terms. Thus, the question of their marginalization can be approached from a different perspective.