Political reservation for STs after 35-A demise

By Sant Kumar Sharma
Jammu, August 30:
After the sudden demise of Article 35-A, the Scheduled Tribes (STs) living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have reasons to rejoice. Well, the STs of the Union Territory (UT) of J&K that will come into being after October 31 as they will get political reservations.
This means that much like Scheduled Castes (SCs), the STs too will have seats reserved exclusively for them in the new Legislative Assembly. Till date, ST candidates have won from the general seats due to their numerical strength and spread. With the new rules
This is something that is directly beneficial to them and among the STs, Gujjars and Bakerwals stand to gain the maximum. They are numerically the largest ST group and for obvious reasons, they will gain a lot.
In fact, Artcile 35-A that allowed the state legislature to define Permanent Residents of the state was used against the ST population all these years. It is worth mentioning here that till April 19, 1991, Gujjars and Bakerwals were not given the ST status. Even at that time, they were not given all the benefits that were admissible to STs under the Indian Constitution.
The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir actually acted as a barrier towards the grant of benefits that are reserved for the STs. The STs of the state thus lost heavily and were barred from the benefits that could have been theirs with fuller flow of the Indian Constitution.
This barrier has been removed with the abrogation of Article 35-A, and after October 31, political reservations for STs will be the new norm in the UT of J&K. Other smaller groups of STs like Gaddis and Sippis also stand to gain.
Along with political reservations, several Central government schemes meant specifically for the emancipation of STs will also become available to these groups. Those claiming that Article 35-A benefitted the residents of state of Jammu and Kashmir prefer to maintain a silence when various issues regarding STs are discussed with them.
If Article 370 and 35-A had not acted as barriers, the STs of the state could have started getting benefits listed for them in the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950. The Gujjars and Bakerwals were denied their dues till April 1991 by these provisions. Gujjar scholar Javed Rahi once remarked famously: We (Gujjars and Bakerwals) are not against Article 370. Article 370 is against us.
The STs living in J&K will get all the protection and benefit from laws that are enacted in the Indian Constitution once the successor UT becomes a reality. The gains will be substantial for them by way of laws like Forest Rights Act 2006 getting extended here automatically.
There are provisions to prevent atrocities against the STs and these enabling laws will also come into force soon.

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