JAMMU: The revocation of provisions of Article 370 has given hope to over 3,000 Valmiki community members, who live on the land allocated to their ancestors brought from Punjab by J&K government in 1957 but were denied state's 'subjectship' and entailing rights, that their plight will end soon.
"It should end the 62-year-long spell of injustice to us," said Eklavya, an euphoric Valmiki youth, celebrating the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, which allowed only state subjects to buy and own land and take up government jobs.
Eklavya said his ancestor came to Jammu from Punjab's Gurdaspur in 1957 along with many other Valmiki community members on the "invitation" of the then state government headed by chief minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad to take up the job of sanitary workers in the Jammu municipality.
Nodding in agreement, Radhika, a young Valmiki community woman, added, "As the J&K government needed sanitary workers for the city, they even allocated land to our an ancestors and settled them on them."
Eklavya lamented, "We were never made state's subject, never given the right to get the state government's job and other rights."
Eklavya, Radhika and around 10 other members of his community have been waging a relentless legal battle in various courts, including the Supreme Court of India, for ending the discrimination.
"All we can do here is to work as a safai karmchari in the mumnicpal corporation, that too on an honorarium without any scope of regularistion of service or promotion," said Eklavya, who could not get a government job in J&K despite doing his graduation years ago.
"Now that the state has no special status, the concept of state subject itself has gone. This should be making all Indians and all 'permanent J&K residents equal in all respect," added Eklavya, hoping that people like him too will soon be declared entitled to get government jobs and other rights in the newly-created Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Eklavya and Radhika, whose a ancestors hail from Gurdaspur, represent 3000-odd other members of their community, living in one of the many Valmiki community colonies like Christian Colony, Bakshi Nagar, Dogra Hall, Resham Ghar, Valmiki Colony and Gandhi Nagar areas of Jammu city.
Despite owning land in Jammu and living there for all their life, they are deprived of various rights including the right to vote, right to higher education, right to get state scholarship, right to get reservation in state jobs -- in fact, any state job itself.
"We salute Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his political will to take such a bold and courageous decision to end the discriminatory laws of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir," said Radhika.
Valmiki Samaj president Garu Bhatti told PTI, "It is like a dream come true for us. We thank Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for providing us and our children opportunity to prosper as a community, which was virtually untouchable in J&K."
Jammu Bar Association's former president B S Salathia shared the Valmiki community's optimism and enthusiasm over revocation of J&K's special status.
"When article 35-A has gone, they automatically get all the rights," he said.
"With the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35-A, the entire Indian Constitution, as amended till date plus all other central laws get automatically enforced in Union territories of J&K and Ladakh and all residents living there will be subjected to same laws as any other citizen living anywhere else in the country are subjected to," said the senior advocate.
"All Indian laws are sure to be notified by the government soon," said Salathia.