SRINAGAR — In a historic development, West Pakistani refugees and Valmikis were seen happy and enthusiastic after casting votes for the first time since 1947.
WPRs and Valmikis were given the right to vote post rollback of Article 370 by the Government of India.
Leaders of West Pakistan refugees and Valmikis said that they were very much happy after casting their votes for the first time as they got a chance to choose their representative for the first time after 1947 in the form of District Development Council (DDC) polls.
Gaurav Bhati, leader of Valmiki Samaj said that they weren’t able to go before any leader, to seek redressal of their day to day issues as there was none to listen to their grievances. “Now, we have got the opportunity to elect our own representative so that our pending demands are fulfilled,” Bhati said.
Members of West Pakistan refugees and Ghurkhas also expressed the same views and said they are happy to elect their own representatives for the first time after 1947.
Pertinently, WPRs were settled mainly in border areas of Jammu and were not considered as permanent citizens. As per official data, 5,764 Hindu and Sikh families popularly known as West Pakistan refugees (WPRs) entered India in 1947 and settled down in various parts of Jammu.
Presently, the number of West Pakistan refugees has increased to over 20,000 families or four lakh persons.
After the scrapping of Article 370 and 35-A, they are allowed to purchase land and apply for jobs in J&K, besides that they can also contest elections. They can also apply for government jobs and buy land as well.
Apart from WPR, the Valmikis (Dalits) who were brought into J&K in 1975 from Punjab by then State government were given permanent resident certificates but they had to abide by the condition that their future generations could stay only in J&K if they continue to be scavengers and Safai Karamcharis.
With the abrogation of special status, now Valmikis have also become eligible to apply for any jobs, purchase land, vote, contest elections besides that they can now change from the occupation their forefathers were doing.
As per leaders of the Valmiki Samaj, at present around 10,000 people belong to this community in J&K.