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A tribute to BR Ambedkar

Author: Guru Prakash
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 7, 2019
URL:      https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/columnists/a-tribute-to--br-ambedkar.html

The anomalies created due to Article 370 and 35A were erroneous at many levels. The Government’s decision will usher a remarkable transformation in the lives of Dalit, tribal and other backward communities

One of the most significant points that is lost in the debate over the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India is the plight of the subalterns in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The commentariat has missed the impact of removal of Article 370 on the Dalits, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and tribal communities in the State. The socially, politically and economically disadvantaged sections were bereft of any Constitutional benefits, which were meant for their welfare and development.

“You wish India should protect your border, it should build road in your areas, it should supply you food grains and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But the Government of India should have limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent in your proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interest of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do”, observed BR Ambedkar on the demand of special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

As someone, who dedicated his life for the cause of the Dalits, Babasaheb carefully pre-empted the implications of a distinctive Constitutional status. He never compromised with the national interest and the interests of the community. He was unfortunately overridden by the then rulers, whose only intentions were to seek power at all costs.

By revoking Article 370, the Narendra Modi Government has undone years of oppression and institutional discrimination of the socially marginalised sections like the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs.

Coming together of arch-rivals

It was one of the rare occasions where the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) solidly stood with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Affirmative action policies like preferential treatment to the Dalits, tribal and OBC communities became victims of Article 370, which created a permanent roadblock for Central legislations. It is interesting to note that reservation policies were not fully implemented in the entire State of Jammu & Kashmir due to Article 370.

Many Valmiki Dalits in Jammu are forced to become sweepers because the State legislation does not recognise their community, whose members are conventionally manual scavengers, as State subjects. The members of the community cannot apply for a Scheduled Caste certificate or a Government job, except for the post of a sweeper. They have been protesting against this since a very long time. According to a news report published by News18 in 2010, one of the Ministers publicly admitted that, “The demands of the Valimikis are genuine. They are not outsiders but adopted ones. Due to Article 370, giving State subject to them is difficult. In order to solve their situation, we will form a committee consisting of all party members, who can solve their plight soon,” said the then Jammu & Kashmir Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation, Raman Bhalla.

“Being denied SC certificate puts them at a disadvantage and they cannot even obtain a loan in the State to pull themselves out of backwardness. Without residential rights to property, they have no collateral to mortgage. Even after living in Jammu & Kashmir for 62 years, the Valmikis do not have a right to vote in panchayat, municipality or State Assembly elections”, observed Pallavi Sareen in one of the articles on the plight of Valmikis in Jammu & Kashmir.

This was a gross violation of Constitutional values and spirit. Valmikis in the rest of the country are recognised as SC and are entitled to benefits in State-sponsored education and employment schemes. Can a similar class of citizens be treated differently in the same country? It was a matter of embarrassment as it never caught the attention of intellectuals and activists, who have systematically benefitted from atrocity narrative.

The story does not end here. It is surprising that there is no provision of political representation of STs in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Whereas the Constitution of India has made special arrangements for their equitable representation at critical decision making positions, the tribal communities were still prohibited to enter the legislative chambers of Jammu & Kashmir. With the bifurcation of Ladakh as a separate Union Territory, tribal communities will now get what was due to them since so many decades.

The anomalies created due to Article 370 and Article 35A were erroneous at many levels. The Modi Government’s decision will usher a remarkable transformation in the lives of Dalit, tribal and other backward communities of Jammu & Kashmir.

- (The writer is Adviser, Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) and Assistant Professor at Patna University)
 
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