Members of 3 communities get J&K domicile certificates
Members of the Valmiki Samaj, the Hindu refugees from erstwhile west Pakistan and the Gurkhas, got domicile certificates from the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) administration on Saturday after years of being denied equal rights.
Earlier, they were not considered as permanent residents in the erstwhile J&K, which was bifurcated into two Union Territories (UTs) – J&K and Ladakh – after the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019.
“It’s a red-letter day for us. The first domicile certificate was given to Deepo Devi, who is 70 -years-old. She had retired from Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC), as a safai karamchari (sanitation worker) long ago,” said Gharu Bhatti, a leader from the Valmiki community.
“We’re happy to be finally considered as legitimate citizens of J&K. Our youngsters see a new ray of hope. Now, they, too, can become officers and get good state government jobs,” he added.
Bhatti, however, took a dig at Kashmir-centric parties such as the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for opposing the new domicile law.
“These parties have been claiming from the outset that attempts are being made to change J&K’s demography. However, they were trying to turn it into a Muslim-dominated state for all these years. Be it Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah of the NC, or Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP, they never allowed us to enjoy equal rights,” Bhatti said.
He lauded the J&K authorities’ move to hand over the domicile certificates that have “ended slavery by successive Kashmir-centric regimes”.
The Valmiki community was brought to erstwhile J&K in 1957 from Punjab’s Gurdaspur and Amritsar on the assurance of the then Prime Minister of J&K, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, that they would be given permanent resident status and other privileges.
However, for over 62 years they worked as sweepers (safai karamcharis), irrespective of their educational qualifications, because they were never considered citizens of the J&K.
Labha Ram Gandhi, the chairman of the West Pakistani Refugees Action Committee (WPRAC), praised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre for its humanitarian approach that helped his displaced community members to get respect and dignity for the rest of their lives.
“Nothing was done to solve our humanitarian crisis. We were betrayed by successive Central governments and erstwhile J&K authorities. We were denied our basic fundamental rights, as the majority of the refugees are Dalits,” Gandhi alleged.
Members of WPRAC have been ineligible for government jobs and admission to any professional course at a state-run institute.
Most members of WPRAC had come from Sialkot in west Punjab during the Partition and are settled in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts in the Jammu division.
Sanjeev Verma, divisional commissioner, Jammu, organised a special camp on Saturday to handover 50 domicile certificates to members of these three displaced communities.
Under the Domicile Rules, all those people and their children, who have lived in J&K for 15 years, or have studied for seven years and appeared in Board examinations (Grade X or XII) from a UT-based educational institution are eligible for the grant of domicile.
Children of central government officials; All India service officers; officials of public sector undertakings (PSU); and autonomous body of central government; public sector Banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central Universities and recognised research institutes of the central government, who have served in the UT for 10 years are also eligible for the domicile status.
Besides, all those migrants and their children, who are registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, will be granted a domicile certificate. Children of those residents of J&K, who reside outside the UT, because of their employment, business, or other professional or vocational reasons have become eligible for the grant of domicile status.
West Pakistan refugees (WPRs), sanitation workers and children of Women married outside J&K, who were earlier deprived, are also eligible for a domicile certificate.
WPRs were part of the parliamentary electoral roll, but not of the erstwhile state electoral roll. They will now be covered under the 15-year domicile rule or their children under the seven-year or class X/XII rule.