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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Article 370 & 35A, a curse for J&K’s Valmiki community finally lifted

Can you visualise a LIFE in which you and your future generations are forced to work as scavengers or cleaners (safari karamchari), no matter your educational qualifications? Can you imagine a SLEEP in which you are denied the dream of doing better?

This is exactly what happened to the Valmiki community who were invited to Jammu & Kashmir from Punjab in 1957 by the J&K Government to work as cleaners, as the existing sanitation union workers were on indefinite strike then.

Although Valmiki Community had been promised that they would be provided Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) i.e. full state citizenship, but the promise was never respected. Hundreds of people from Valmiki Community had been allotted land for the construction of houses, but till date they were not granted PRC while their population increased manifold.

20-years-old Radhika, daughter of a scavenger, was a bright student. Her father left no stone unturned to support his daughter in her studies. He even remained hungry so that his daughter can continue her education. Finally, she cleared examinations of Border Security Force but was denied the job due to no PRC. Such was the curse inflicted by Article 370 & 35A on the children of Valmiki Community.

Eklavya, 22, son of a sweeper, wanted to become a lawyer but couldn’t practice due to no PRC. There are many bright and talented children of Valmiki community, many Eklavyas and Radhikas, who were not allowed to join any professional course even though their fathers had been serving the erstwhile state of J&K for over six decades.

Cleaning the garbage of the state, the Valmiki community didn’t even have right to cast votes in the state elections of Jammu & Kashmir, and could only cast their vote in Lok Sabha elections.

Every Independence Day on 15 August, while the rest of Bharat would celebrate its freedom to work as per ability and qualification, the Valmiki Community in J&K remained bonded labourers with a dark future. The true Independence Day for this oppressed and suppressed Valmiki Community came on 5 August 2019, when the Modi govt abrogated Article 370 & 35A. Now, they can dare to dream and cast their votes to elect local leaders as proud citizens of Bharat.

So-called Dalit leaders do politics in the name of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, projecting themselves as saviours of Dalits all over the country. But how come they lost their love for Dalits in J&K, and didn’t raise their voice over this gross human rights violation of the Valmiki community in Jammu & Kashmir? Did minority appeasement cast a shadow on their love for Dalits in J&K? Self-proclaimed Dalit leaders must answer this question.

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Manisha Inamdar
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