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Sat. Nov 26th, 2022
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NEW DELHI: The Centre is planning to include a variation of the ‘Valmiki’ community in Jammu & Kashmir in the Scheduled Castes list, amid growing indications that elections will be held in the Union Territory.
As per the proposal, the ministry for social justice and empowerment is proposing the inclusion of ‘Balmiki’ in the SC list. The name is a spelling variation of ‘Valmiki’ which is already in the SC list, but given the strictness adopted in the recognition of Dalit groups, the difference leads to omission of many individuals or households from the ‘Balmiki’ caste from reservation and other affirmative action benefits.
BJP has been on an overdrive on caste categorisation in J&K, having announced recently the inclusion of the ‘Pahari’ community — a linguistic minority — in the list of Scheduled Tribes. The Gujjars and Bakerwals, who are in the ST list, have reacted strongly against the proposal and threatened protests. While Gujjars and Bakerwals are Muslims, the ‘Paharis’ comprise Hindu and Muslim both. The protestors claim that ‘Paharis’ are not tribals, and instead are part of the mainstream upper castes.
However, the case of ‘Valmikis/Balmikis’ is not controversial as they have been a known Dalit community across the country. Sources said some families of the said community had migrated from Punjab to Jammu in 1957-58, after a request sent by then head of state to Punjab chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon, in the wake of the strike by safai karamcharis (cleaners) in J&K. It is largely this group that forms part of the community with spelling variation that is being sought to be included in the SC list.
The social justice ministry’s proposal will be sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes for its opinion, after which it will be put before the Union cabinet for its approval. Then, a bill will be brought in the parliament for passage.
The hyperactivity on the J&K’s social front has followed comments from senior government ministers that elections in the UT will be held soon. However, there is no clarity yet on the exact timing of the proposed polls.
For many, the inclusion of J&K communities in the SC and ST lists mirrors the urgency that the Centre showed in granting tribal status to trans-Giri region in Sirmaur district in election-bound Himachal Pradesh. The proposal, cleared by the Union cabinet in mid-September, bestowed ST status on ‘Hatti’ community in the region. ‘Hatti’ is an umbrella term for all the social groups inhabiting the trans-Giri region. However, owing to protests by the Dalits, the SCs were kept out of its purview. The polls to HP concluded this month.

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