By Anil Bhatt :
JAMMU, SIXTY-THREE years after their arrival in Jammu and Kashmir as “sanitary workers” on the request of the then Government, members of Valmiki community are finally hopeful of a bright future for their children as they are being granted domicile certificates. The revocation of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution has given a new lease of life to over 3,000 Valmiki community members who live on the land that was allocated to their ancestors when they shifted to Jammu from Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on invitation of the erstwhile State Government in 1957.
The first domicile certificate in the community was given to 71-year-old Deepoo Devi of Valmiki Samaj Basti by a Tehsildar. “I was living as an unwanted citizen here. My wish to become a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir with all the rights has finally come true before my death. Our children will live with dignity in this land where their ancestors served,” Devi said.
Devi, who retired as a sanitation worker from Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC), said, “The community members will now get a right to life, right to vote, right to Government jobs, right to professional colleges and reservation.” Their ancestors had came to Jammu on the “invitation” of the then State Government headed by CM Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad to work as sanitary workers in the Jammu municipality. They now live in one of the many Valmiki colonies like Christian Colony, Bakshi Nagar, Dogra Hall, Resham Ghar, Valmiki Colony and Gandhi Nagar areas of Jammu.