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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: May 3, 2018, 12:39 AM; last updated: May 3, 2018, 12:39 AM (IST)

35A: Petitioners talk of bias, unkept promises

In misery since 1957

  • The agony of these residents started way back in 1957 when they were especially called from Punjab to work as “safai karamcharis” after the local workers had gone on an indefinite strike.
  • Over 250 families of Valmikis were brought from Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Punjab with the promise that they would be provided all constitutional rights like other citizens of J&K. It was only on this assurance that the Valmikis had agreed to work in Jammu.

Dinesh Manhotra

Tribune News Service

Jammu, May 2

Radhika Gill, 18, a Valmiki girl who along with two other youth has challenged the constitutional validity of Article 35-A of the Constitution that gives special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, is a glaring case of the discrimination against non-permanent residents of J&K.

She is one of the top athletes of J&K, but when it comes to the question of employment she is only eligible for the job of sweeper due to the provisions of Article 35-A. Living with her parent in a one-room shanty at Valmiki Colony in Jammu, Radhika displayed the medals and trophies she had won as an athlete but all her awards are of no use because she is one of the many voiceless non-permanent resident Valmikis, who have been facing the worst kind of slavery in a democracy since 1957.

Members of Valmiki Samaj have been living in Jammu since 1957 but they have been deprived of all constitutional and human rights due to the separate constitution of the state. As Valmikis are denied Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs) which are given to residents of J&K, their youth are debarred from claiming any government job in the state. They are entitled to only the job of sweeper in J&K.

“I hope that the Supreme Court will end the discrimination and slavery being faced by our community,” Radhika told The Tribune. “I excelled in physical test for recruitment into a paramilitary force but finally I was debarred from participating in the main selection as I did not possess a PRC,” she said.

Similar is the story of Eklavya, another petitioner challenging Article 35A in the Supreme Court, who is a postgraduate in political science but is eligible only for the job of sweeper in Jammu. “Almost 59 years have passed but promises have remained only on paper,” Eklavya told The Tribune.

Radhika and Eklavya are not isolated cases. There are several other Valimiki youth who are talented and qualified but cannot join state-funded institutions to do professional courses like MBBS and B.Tech because they don’t possess PRCs.

The agony of these residents started way back in 1957 when they were especially called from Punjab to work as “safai karamcharis” after the local workers had gone on an indefinite strike. The then Wazir-e-Azam (Prime Minister) of J&K, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, had convened a Cabinet meeting in which a decision was taken to bring safai karmacharis from other states to solve the crisis.

Over 250 families of Valmikis were brought from Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Punjab with the promise that they would be provided all constitutional rights like other citizens of J&K. It was only on this assurance that the Valmikis had agreed to work in Jammu.

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