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Bills to give J&K Paharis ST status, Valmikis SC tag to be cleared in Parliament’s monsoon session

Three Bills related to Jammu and Kashmir were previously scheduled to be taken up for consideration and passage in the Budget session earlier this year.

Srinagar:  The entire Pahari population of Jammu and Kashmir is poised to get Scheduled Tribe (ST) status as the Bill is likely to be cleared in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

While the Valmikis would be getting the status of Scheduled Caste (SC), the people of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) would also for the first time be entitled to reservation in Government jobs and scholarships.

The Government is understood to have made all preparations to move and pass three Bills in both Houses of Parliament, granting ST status to the Paharis and incorporating some communities in the SC and OBC categories. These proposals are among a batch of 32 Bills to be taken up in the monsoon session comprising 17 sittings. The session is scheduled to start on 20 July and end on 11 August, 2023.

Three Bills related to Jammu and Kashmir were previously scheduled to be taken up for consideration and passage in the Budget session earlier this year. However, these could not be moved due to a prolonged face-off between the Treasury and Opposition benches.

These Bills drafted by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice include The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

According to official sources, these proposed legislations pertain to grant of the ST status to Paharis, enlisting of Valmikis in the SC category and reservation to OBCs in Government jobs and scholarships. Currently, the OBCs in the rest of the country are entitled to certain privileges but they will be getting the benefits for the first time in the newly created UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

The economically depressed minority communities, mostly based in Jammu, would be entitled to reservations once the Bills are passed by Parliament followed by the Presidential assent. Sources revealed that members of the Jat and some other communities were also proposed to be incorporated in the OBC category in Jammu and Kashmir.

While currently there is no reservation for the OBCs in J&K, members of the Other Social Castes (OSC) category are entitled to 4 percent reservation. The OBCs, who are currently entitled to 27 percent reservation at the national level and in some States and UTs, would get the benefit as per the ratio of their population in the UT.

The Bill pertaining to grant of the ST status to Pahari Kabila will also fulfil the long pending demand of the same ST status to Paddari tribe and Koli & Gadda Brahmins. Some Valmikis were not included as SCs in J&K even as they enjoyed reservation as SCs across the country. The Government will now include all Valmikis in the SC community and make them entitled to various benefits for the category.

BJP’s J&K President Ravinder Raina said the bills were part of the Narendra Modi Government’s policy “to provide justice to all sections of society”.

“Our Government provided Land and Forest Rights and political reservation to Gujjars and Bakerwals. Now, Pahari Kabila will get rights along with OBCs and Valmikis. This is a historic decision and a veritable game-changer in Jammu and Kashmir,” Raina said.

Based on recommendations of Justice GD Sharma Commission report, the Government has cleared Pahari ethnic tribe, Paddari tribe and Koli & Gadda Brahman for accord of ST status. All concerned Ministries and the National Commission for STs have already cleared the proposal. The Gujjars and the Bakarwals in Jammu and Kashmir have already enjoyed the ST status and the Government has clarified that their rights would not be diluted.

Paddari tribe is settled mostly in Paddar area of the Kishtwar district which is one of the remotest areas in erstwhile Doda district. However, Koli & Gadda Brahmans are spread in different areas. Paharis are mostly based in twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region and Baramulla and Kupwara in Kashmir division. In the 90-member J&K Assembly, 9 segments are currently reserved for STs—5 in Jammu and 4 in Kashmir.

The STs enjoyed reservation in the government jobs and scholarships in education but they were denied political reservation in the ershile J&K State Legislature for a long time though the same existed in the Lok Sabha and some State legislatures across the country. After abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, the BJP government at the Centre granted political reservation to STs in the J&K UT Assembly.