June 2020 News

After 63 Yrs, Jammu Valmikis 'liberated From Slavery'

27 June 2020
The Tribune
Dinesh Manhotra

Jammu: Deepu Devi, a 75-year-old Valmiki woman, could not control her emotions when Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma, handed over the domicile certificate to her in the presence of other community members. It was the result of a 63-year-long struggle that the government ultimately recognised these 'helpless' Valmikis as 'permanent residents' of J&K and granted them domicile certificate to 'liberate them from slavery'. On Saturday, a special function was held in the office of the Divisional Commissioner to formally start the process to hand over domicile certificates to Valmikis, West Pakistani refugees and Gurkhas. Radhika Gill, who was at the forefront in the fight against 'glaring injustice', said: 'This document has liberated us from the decades-long slavery as the so-called special status of J&K has debarred highly qualified youth of our community to get respectable government jobs-except the job of sweepers'. Radhika Gill, who was at the forefront in this long fight, said, 'This document has liberated us from the decades-old slavery as the so-called special status of J&K had debarred highly qualified youths of our community from getting respectable government jobs except those of sweepers.' Radhika, who is one of the top athletes of Jammu and Kashmir, had shown her excellence at the 14th state athletics meet held in 2018, but when it came to employment, she was only eligible for the job of a sweeper due to the provisions in the State Subject Laws, which have now been replaced by the Domicile Law. The agony of Valmikis started way back in 1957 when they were specially called from Punjab to be employed as safai karamcharis by the then Wazir-e-Azam of J&K, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. Over 250 families of Valmikis were brought from Gurdaspur and Amritsar with the promise of providing them all constitutional rights like other citizens of J&K. It was on this assurance that the Valmikis from Punjab agreed to work in Jammu. Since 1957, they were struggling to get rights which other residents of J&K were enjoying, but to no avail. After the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, the permanent resident certificates (PRCs) law was abolished and replaced by the new Domicile Law.