In a decisive move, the Lok Sabha has given its nod to two Bills seeking amendments to the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The legislative action is viewed as a pivotal stride toward fostering inclusivity and equality post the abrogation of Article 370.
Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024
The first bill, titled the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024, has been passed to include the Valmiki community in the SC list. Valmiki is now recognized as synonymous with Chura, Balmiki, Bhangi, and Mehtar communities in the Union Territory.
During the debate, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Virendra Kumar, asserted that the scrapping of Article 370 has established equality in Jammu and Kashmir. Kumar addressed concerns by affirming that the government has no plans to discontinue pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for Scheduled Caste students.
Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024
The second bill, titled the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024, incorporates four communities – Gadda Brahmin, Koli, Paddari Tribe, and Pahari Ethnic Group – into the ST list in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Paharis have for long been struggling to be included in the ST. The amendment was passed through voice vote with support from across party lines even as MP from Anantnag, Hasnain Masoodi sought guarantees from the central government on its specific strategy to ensure the quota for existing STs is protected.
Subsequently, Arjun Munda, the Tribal Affairs Minister, highlighted that the scrapping of Article 370 signifies the government’s commitment to the unity of India. Meanwhile the opposition raised the issue of Ladakh where responding to opposition demands for the inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, Munda assured that the BJP government prioritizes the welfare of the people in the Union territory.
Both bills seek to amend the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order of 1956 and the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order of 1989. Accordingly, these amendments aim to create separate lists for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The legislative developments are perceived as positive strides toward ensuring social justice and inclusivity in the recently reorganized Union Territories, marking significant post-Article 370 progress.