Introduction / History
Like many communities in India, the surname and the name of the people group are the same. Watal is a surname, but also the name of a people group. Traditionally they were tanners, and they still work in the tanning industry. This is one of the lowest status jobs in South Asia.
Where Are they Located?
All of the Watal people live in the Kashmiri Valley. They speak Kashmiri.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Although, according to India's constitution, caste is prohibited, it does exist and affects everyday life for Muslim communities as well as Hindu ones. For example, the Watal people often experience prejudice when they try to enter a mosque. They are Muslims, but being tanners, they are given low status not only by Hindus, but also by other Muslim communities.
What Are Their Beliefs?
They are landless, illiterate, poor, and without political or social power. Feeling powerless, one Watal individual complained, "We are like dropped leaves from a tree being swept away by the wind in unknown directions. We have no shelter over our heads; successive governments have done so much for the poor, but we still remain deprived of benefits."
The Wattal people are all Sunni Muslims. They believe that the Koran has life's spiritual answers, though almost none of them can read this holy book written in Classical Arabic.
What Are Their Needs?
They need to understand that the God of the Bible gives them dignity, worth and hope. They also need ways to earn a better living, so their children can get a good enough education to move forward economically.
* Scripture Prayers for the Wattal (Muslim traditions) in India.
Pray for the Lord of the harvest to send forth His harvesters into this field to share with them His glorious message.
May the Watal people be eternally grateful to the God who can give them dignity because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.
May they learn His ways and teach them to others.
J&K book, pp 690-96)