Jammu: Within a month of its announcement by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has given its go ahead to the inclusion of “Pahari ethnic people” along with “Paddari tribe”, “Kolis” and “Gadda Brahmans” in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list of Jammu and Kashmir.
As per the administrative procedure, the clearance of proposal of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA) in this connection by the NCST and the Registrar General of India (RGI) will be followed by a bill (by MTA) in Parliament, after the assent by the union cabinet, to amend the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir Scheduled Tribes Order, 1989).
The notification by the President of India vis-a-vis the revised schedule will complete the entire process.
Meanwhile, the development has already started eliciting responses. Most significant response was that of the Union Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh. In fact, this was the first official confirmation of the development, which was first reported by a national daily.
“Thanks HM Sh@AmitShah ji for conceding the long pending demand of granting ST status to #Pahari community. This could have been possible only in a government headed by PM Sh@narendramodi ji which has the courage and conviction to transform #JammuAndKashmir,” tweeted Dr Jitendra.
The national daily reported that the NCST on October 20 had cleared the MTA proposal on the basis of the recommendation of the office of RGI.
Earlier, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on October 4, while addressing a public rally in Rajouri in Pir Panchal sub-region, had announced that the “Paharis would get reservation as the Prime Minister had cleared its way by removing Article 370.”
He had stated that Justice (G D) Sharma's Commission had sent its “recommendations to give reservation to the Pahari, Bakarwal and Gurjar (Gujjar) people.”
“As soon as the administrative process of these recommendations is over, Gurjar, Bakarwal and Pahari people are going to get the benefits of reservation,” the Union Home Minister had said.
Though Gujjars-Bakarwals are already getting ST reservation in J&K yet the STs will get political reservation in the UT for the first time, following the delimitation exercise.
Pir Panchal sub region in Jammu region has the sizeable population of both Gujjars and Paharis.
In the same breath, the Home Minister had also clarified that it would not affect the “reservation for Gurjar and Bakarwal community under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category even by one percent.”
“The development of the Jammu and Kashmir region is a priority for Prime Minister Modi. Earlier injustice was meted out to the Pahari people of Jammu and Kashmir, as they did not get any reservation. The Prime Minister cleared the way for reservation by removing Article 370. A few people, however, did not want peace in the region and they were trying to instigate Gurjars (Gujjars) and Bakarwals,” Shah had said to pacify the “frayed nerves.”
Notably, the Gujjar community of J&K was (is still) vehemently opposing the inclusion of “Paharis” in ST list. Gujjars-Bakarwals are the major beneficiaries of ST reservation in J&K.
Meanwhile, with regard to NCST’s nod, J&K Social Welfare Department is not in receipt of any official communication on this account as required administrative procedure is to be completed by the Centre.
“No, we have not,” was the precise response of Commissioner Secretary J&K Social Welfare Department (SWD) Sheetal Nanda, to a query by Greater Kashmir as to whether her department received any communication from NCST on this account.
Regarding a query pertaining to the notification issued by SWD on October 23 whereby its earlier notification, amending J&K Reservation Rules, 2005, was kept in abeyance, she said, “That (notification) is still in abeyance.”
On October 23, the Union Territory (UT) administration had ordered to put its earlier notification, amending J&K Reservation Rules, 2005 “in abeyance till further orders.”
Its prior notification issued on October 19, while amending J&K Reservation Rules, 2005, had provided for the addition of 15 new social castes under the category of “Socially and Educationally Backward Classes” for the purpose of reservation benefits.
Same notification (October 19) had also directed for replacing the expression “Pahari speaking people” with “Pahari Ethnic people” as a part of amendment to the Rules.
Not specifying any reason, the brief notification issued by J&K Social Welfare Department on October 23 had directed that the notification issued on October 19, 2022 “shall come into force from the date as may be notified by the government.”
However, the reports quoting official sources had mentioned that the UT administration was contemplating to rename Other Social Castes (OSCs) and christen them as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to restore parity with rest of the country so as to meet the latter’s (OBCs’) demand for enhancement in reservation. Hence the notification issued on October 19 was kept in abeyance.
Another reason cited was that the government wanted to issue notification about reservation (ST status) to Paharis besides three other communities and the notification providing for addition of 15 new social castes under the category of “Socially and Educationally Backward Classes” simultaneously, hence it issued “abeyance” order.