Reservation for Muslims

The national convention of Indian Muslims held in New Delhi on February 1 has forcefully demanded reservation for Muslims in government services and educational institutions. It is a just demand which deserves support of all right-thinking people and political parties and immediate acceptance by the Government.

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The national convention of Indian Muslims held in New Delhi on February 1 has forcefully demanded reservation for Muslims in government services and educational institutions. It is a just demand which deserves support of all right-thinking people and political parties and immediate acceptance by the Government.

The daylong deliberations brought to light the arguments behind this demand. Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee’s Report 2006 on economic, social and educational deprivation of Indian Muslims, which is based on government figures, has fully documented the fact that even after six decades of independence the Muslims have been denied their just share in government jobs and benefits of developmental schemes. Unfortunately this vibrant section of Indian society has been reduced to almost the level of SCs and STs. The future historians will certainly remark that this atrocity happened in the largest democracy of the world. This is one of the most shocking and deplorable aspects of Indian democracy. It is strange that this state of affairs persists in spite of our claims of being a country which aspires to achieve social, economic and political justice for every individual and community.

Every seventh Indian is a Muslim and they comprise about 15 per cent of Indian population. The continued denial of their share in state jobs and benefits of state schemes does not bode well for the health of our society and future of democracy. This has resulted in a drag on India’s overall progress and has been breeding frustration and resentment in the largest minority of the country.

Indian Constitution has provided for reservation for castes and tribes. It is a fact that Islam does not recognise castes but Muslims have been relegated to a backward status because of the atmosphere of overwhelming prejudice in the country and neglect by the succeeding governments both at the Centre and the States. The rise of Hindutva forces has also contributed to this prejudice. They cry hoarse as soon as there is some talk of reservation for Muslims. The question is when Hindus who are in majority and Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists minorities can have reservation, why Muslims as a class should not be given this facility with a view to addressing their backwardness and bringing them at par with other communities. Article 16(4) also stipulates that reservation can be provided for any socially or economically backward group or class.

Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, which is yet to be tabled, has taken note of the deteriorating condition of Muslims and recommended that 15 per cent reservation should be given to minorities and out of it 10 per cent should be earmarked for the Muslims and in addition the unutilised part of the 15 per cent also should be provided for the Muslims. This is a very meaningful and important recommendation, which, if properly implemented, will go a long way in improving the condition of the community.

There is greater understanding among most political parties and educated sections that the problem of Muslim backwardness cannot be tackled unless immediate corrective steps are taken. This thinking has resulted in provision of 3.5 per cent to 14 per cent reservation for Muslims in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and recently Manipur also has provided it. The State Governments in UP, West Bengal and Bihar, where about 50 per cent Indian Muslims live, must take affirmative action and all political parties must make it a part of their manifestoes and implement it right earnest.

Veteran Muslim leader Syed Shahabuddin, whose heart beats with the sympathy of Muslims, is spearheading the movement for Muslim reservation. Let us hope this movement succeeds. Let the Muslims use their voting power in the coming general elections judiciously and achieve their objective.