Article 35-A and human rights of Valmikis

Dr Ganesh Malhotra
Article 35-A of Indian Constitution introduced by Presidential order of 14th may,1954 enables the State Assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ and to give them special rights and privileges, as well as to restrict the rights and privileges of all citizens of India who do not fit into this definition of ‘permanent resident’. This Article has denied certain basic rights to many communities living within Jammu-Kashmir for the past six decades. It has also taken away the rights of all Indians living outside Jammu-Kashmir from settling in the state of Jammu-Kashmir, an integral part of India.
One of such depressed class of people in J&K called Safai Karamchari (Valmiki Samaj). Safai Karamcharis are living below the poverty line in J&K. They are not awarded equal treatment by State Government under Art. 14 as is awarded to other residents of J&K. They are deprived of basic human rights by State Government of J&K in the garb of Article 35A, that was, inserted in Indian Constitution via backdoor entry in 1954 superseding the established procedure. Article 35A sanctifies the class discrimination which deals blow to rights and dignity of Safai Karamcharis of J&K. They are out rightly denied by State Government in unjust, unfair and discriminatory manner : the, Permanent Resident Certificate, right to vote in local elections of state, government job & social welfare benefits, moreover, even their children are denied admission in Professional colleges. Laws of J&K have reduced them to the position of a “second class citizen” where Safai Karamcharis can only work as “Sweepers”.
In the year 1957 local safai karamcharis of J&K went on an indefinite strike and it continued over for months as a result of which municipal work all over Jammu & Kashmir came to a standstill and most of the cities (especially Jammu and Srinagar) in the State of Jammu & Kashmir were covered with garbage. In order to cope up with the situation the Jammu & Kashmir Government headed by the Chief Minister Gulam Mohammad took a cabinet decision to bring Safai Karamcharis from other States. Hundreds of people of our Valmiki Samaj from Gurdaspur and Amritsar (Punjab) were brought to Jammu & Kashmir. The Health Officer of Jammu Municipality was authorized by the Government to arrange all facilities. They were provided with free transportation and special permit to enter into the State.
The Safai karamcharis were allotted land for the construction of houses and were also provided with all other necessary facilities and amenities for their peaceful living. Most of families were provided with residential accommodation in the Gandhi Nagar region of Jammu City. Today Gandhi Nagar Area is considered to be one of the most expensive areas of Jammu city. Further necessary arrangements were made to accommodate families from Valmiki samaj in the Jammu Municipality by relaxing the mandatory condition to have Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) in their favour.
All the men and women who were brought from Gurdaspur and Amritsar were not Permanent Residents of Jammu and Kashmir but were still appointed as Safai karamcharis. The Government of Jammu & Kashmir, however, assured that relaxation in obtaining ‘Permanent Resident Certificate’ would be granted at the appropriate time.
Now almost six decades have gone by, their family size has increased manifold and there are limited jobs available as safai karamcharis in municipalities across the State. The younger generation of our Valmiki Samaj is well qualified, most of them are graduates and many of them have also obtained their master degrees in various fields. But unfortunately it was only after they acquired necessary qualifications and applied for government jobs in the State they came to know that they are not entitled to have a government job other than Sweeper (Safai karamchari) within the State of Jammu & Kashmir.  Even though they are well qualified and fulfill all the necessary conditions and criteria but are still denied the government job. This amounts to discrimination on the basis of caste and creed.
What else could be greater fraud against poor Valmikis that brave, hardworking, talented and well deserving children are not even given opportunity to join any professional course like MBBS, B.Tech, etc. in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Even though parents are toiling and serving the State for past six decades on the special request of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Safai karamcharis working in the Municipal Corporations who have acquired Permanent Resident Certificate are eligible for promotions if they acquire necessary educational qualification but Valmikis are not entitled to get promotions even after getting requisite qualifications.
Generally Valmikis belong to the Schedule Caste but they have not been issued Scheduled Caste Certificate for the reason being not issued Permanent Resident Certificate of Jammu & Kashmir. This discrimination deprived these families to reap any benefit to which they are entitled to under the policy of the Central Government or State Government being a person belonging to schedule caste.
Apart from constraint on the Government Jobs  us, the colonies in which they are living for example Christian Colony, Bakshi Nagar, Dogra Hall, Resham Ghar, Valmiki Colony, Gandhi Nagar etc., have not been regularized by the State Government till date. Though the land on which these colonies are constructed were allotted to the families of Valmiki Samaj to construct houses when they were brought to Jammu & Kashmir.  As per the communication No. JDA/VC/331/34/PS dated 20-08-2004 thirteen colonies were recommended by the Vice Chairman, Jammu Development Authority for regularization but quite surprisingly the list issued by the Housing and Urban Development Department for regularization, these thirteen colonies of safai karamcharis (scheduled casts) were ignored and not regularized.
It is pertinent to mention here though at the cost of repetition that most of Valmiki families who were brought from the nearby States are settled in the Gandhi Nagar region in Jammu. Over a period of time this area has developed into a posh area of the city. Since government of Jammu & Kashmir itself accommodated families in this area but even after six decades these poor people are still living in the dark as regards to the status of their property in which they are currently living. Since, Gandhi Nagar is a posh area, many high profile people are eyeing to acquire the land belonging to poor Valmikis and they are consistently been pressurized to vacate the land on which they have been living for over six decades.
They are the citizens of India and came to Jammu & Kashmir on the demand of Government of Jammu & Kashmir with the promise that they will be given all the facilities necessary for their livelihood but even after sixty years in Jammu & Kashmir valmikis are still not allowed to participate in the local State elections of Jammu & Kashmir. They cannot cast their vote in the local elections though they are allowed to cast vote to elect a Member of Parliament.
They have been oppressed and suppressed in their legitimate demands as Schedule caste and other backward classes of people living in the State of Jammu & Kashmir who have not been given Permanent Resident Certificates in their favour. Howsoever, significant their contribution may have been towards the progress of the Jammu & Kashmir.
It is imperative to debate the constitutional validity of this Presidential order and consequent Article 35-A in public domain. Modern day India certainly cannot allow such grievous mistakes of the past to continue to darken the future of its citizens. The communities that have been wronged deserve justice, urgently.
Moreover, processes and procedures have sanctity of their own, particularly when they concern something as serious as amendment of the Constitution. And if the processes and procedures have indeed been given a short shrift, as appears in this case, we should have the guts to question them.
Valmikis should be brought into the mainstream of Jammu and Kashmir population and they should be given access to their fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of India and in keeping with India’s international obligations to follow the U.N. Charter and international conventions.
(The author is a J&K based strategic and political analyst)


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