The 63-year long struggle ended
“Abrogation of Article 370, 35A, which granted special status to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, has now ended the 63-year long struggle of members of the Valmiki community, West Pakistan refugees and Gorkhas living in the region for over six decades now.”
Story of Radhika Gill
Till 2016, Radhika Gill was a very bright student and a promising athlete. She wanted to join BSF and had also cleared her entrance exam and physical test. But her candidature was rejected by the recruitment agencies in the final round. The reason, she failed to produce her Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) at the time of verification of her credentials. After facing rejection she decided not to pursue her studies and also stopped practicing.
In the absence of a Permanent Resident Certificate, they were entitled to only Safai karamcharis (sweepers) jobs in the Municipal corporations.
24-year-old Radhika is a fourth-generation member of a Valmiki community living in Jammu and Kashmir since 1957. Her grandfather and her father both worked as sweepers in Jammu Municipal Corporation. Her father worked hard and ensured she completed her school education. He never wanted her to enroll as a sweeper.
Last year when the BJP led central government decided to abrogate Article 370 and 35A her hopes were raised once again. She enrolled herself to complete a diploma course in Computer Application but could not continue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, when a senior revenue officer personally handed her domicile certificate in his office chamber she felt elated.
When contacted Radhika Gill said, “I am ready to pursue my higher studies now. I have received my domicile certificate and have also won the battle and silenced all those who discouraged us by saying we will never become Permanent Residents of Jammu and Kashmir and apply for a government job. Now I will pursue my studies and compete with all other candidates to fulfill my dream,” she added.
She along with several other youngsters had fought a long battle to earn their real identity. In the absence of a Permanent Resident Certificate, they were entitled to only Safai karamcharis (sweepers) jobs in the Municipal corporations.
President of the Valmiki Community in Jammu, Garu Bhatti said, “the decision of the BJP government to abrogate Article 370 and 35-A has given us a new ray of hope.”
Despite staying here in Jammu and Kashmir for more than six decades they were deprived of their citizenship rights owing to Article 370 and 35A which granted special status to the permanent residents of the state and deprived them of their human rights.
Story of Eklavya
Eklavya, another arts graduate also could not pursue his higher studies for wants of PRC. He is currently working as an Office assistant here on the Central University campus. He said I have already filled my application form for the post of J&K Bank associate and I am preparing for the same. He said the Union government has empowered the whole community by giving us our rights.
There are around 200 bright students who will be benefited
Radhika and Eklavya are not alone. There are around 200 bright students who are currently pursuing graduation and post-graduation studies in different institutions.
President of the Valmiki Community in Jammu, Garu Bhatti said, “the decision of the BJP government to abrogate Article 370 and 35-A has given us a new ray of hope.” He further said, “an estimated number of 150-200 youth are studying in different graduate and postgraduate courses in Jammu and Kashmir and now with the issuance of domicile certificates they can all compete in the competitive examinations and secure their berth.”
Previously, despite acquiring degrees, the majority of youth could not apply for a government job or take admission in professional degree courses.
In 1957, the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad had decided to bring in Safai karamcharis from other states. Around 200 families, mostly from the neighboring districts of Punjab were brought here at the peak of the strike called by the sanitation workers in Jammu. As the strike continued for several months, major parts of the city were converted into garbage dumps. Despite promising them all basic facilities the members of the Valmiki community were deprived of their basic human rights since then.
West Pakistani refugee community
Members of the West Pakistani refugee community are also happy as their children are also entitled now to receive domicile certificates.
Labha Ram Gandhi, President of the West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee said, “we are thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for fulfilling their promises and granting us citizenship rights in Jammu and Kashmir.”
He said three generations sacrificed their lives waiting to see this dawn. They were ill-treated in the absence of voting rights. They lived in miserable conditions waiting for the government doles. Now their fourth generation has been empowered and given domicile rights. They can now apply for government jobs and also take admissions on professional degree courses to better their future prospects.
Members of the Gorkha Community, living in Jammu are also applying for their domicile certificates and receiving the same from the office of Tehsildar of their area.
According to official sources, more than 4 lakh domicile certificates have been issued so far in the last more than one month across different district headquarters. Around 80,000 domicile certificates have been issued in Kashmir valley and over 3.35 lakh in the Jammu region.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.