Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Salman Khursheed Opposes Reservations For Muslims

There is only one door left open for alleviating the backwardness of Muslims. That is to grant reservation to them. There is no field of human endeavour where the pitiable condition of Muslims is not visible. That is why all commissions constituted by the Government to study poverty and backwardness rampant among Muslims maintain that unless reservation is granted, improving the lot of Muslims is not possible. By granting reservations to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the Government has helped them to cross all roadblocks and achieved great progress. People belonging to SCs and STs are progressing day by day. Yet, in independent India, the condition of Muslims is worse and they continue to remain backward.

Even Muslim organizations formulate strategies and programmes for improvement of the lot of the community, but because of lack of cooperation by the Government, all their efforts fail. All commissions that the Government constitutes to study the cause of backwardness of the community only suggest that the condition of the Muslim community is going from bad to worse. They are even worse than Dalits and at some places, have fallen Below the Poverty Line (BPL). They lack both in education and skills. Incidence of diseases among Muslims is higher than other communities. This is because they are deprived of basic facilities of life. The level of deprivation has brought them in that condition where they have no choice except to adopt low-profile professions.

There is no Muslim leader who could suggest to them how they can progress in life. Therefore, there is no door open to them for their development and progress, except reservation. After analyzing the condition of Muslims, the Rajinder Sachar Committee has recommended to the Government that the very same privileges and special rights given to other backward sections of society should be extended to Muslims also. They should be supported to stand on their own so that such a huge population in the country does not become a burden on society, and the country derives benefit from their capabilities. Still, Muslims are denied reservation on the basis of religion. A Hindu washer man or a Hindu barber comes under reservation, but Muslims could not get it so far because they do not profess the faith of the majority population.

Sachar Committee Report
The Sachar Committee Report entitled, ‘Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India’, has initiated a new debate on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in India. Though the debate has been going on for several decades, quite a few Governments have initiated studies on the community and evolved administrative measures on their basis. The findings are indeed shocking and revealing. What should be our response to this pathetic state of India’s largest minority? On account of a variety of factors, the work of the Sachar Committee and its report has greater significance and relevance than earlier initiatives. The seven-member high-level committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, constituted by the UPA Government, has done a great service to the Muslim community and entire country by identifying issues of equity as central to Muslim backwardness. The report states that the minority community in a society may remain deprived of the benefits of opportunities that become available through economic development. The sense of inequity, states the Report, is perpetual or a result of discrimination that the minority may face due to difference in identity.

The main findings of the Sachar Committee report are the following : (i) Only four per cent of all Muslim students are enrolled in Madrasas; (ii) Muslim parents are not averse to modern or mainstream education and prefer to send their children to regular school education that is open to any other child in India; (iii) In social indices such as infant mortality rate and sex such as infant mortality rate and sex ratio, the community fares better than the rest of the population; (iv) Among the Muslim social groups, the Arzals, whose traditional occupation is similar to that of SCs, might be designated as Most Backward Community and provided reservation; (v) The Ashraf and Ajlaf groups should be treated on apart with OBCs and covered under the OBC quota; (vi) To ameliorate the condition of “acute deprivation” of Muslims, they should be given reservation in employment and educational institutions (backward among the Muslims); (vii) To increase the political participation of the community, the panel recommended nomination to Muslims to public bodies, including local bodies; and (viii) Those constituencies that have a high percentage of Muslims should not be reserved for SCs.

UPA Government’s Promise
The Union Government had made a promise to Muslims that if it returns to power, it would introduce reservations for Muslims and adopt all means to improve their condition. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has reiterated at several gatherings that he soon would initiate measures to change the condition of Muslims. They would progress in the field of education, and would get employment. But unfortunately, there are many a black sheep in the community who strongly oppose grant of reservations to Muslims. Minister of State for Corporate and Minority Affairs Salman Khursheed tops the list of such people.

When he assumed power, he gave a statement against reservations to Muslims. It appears that it has become his duty to oppose reservation for Muslims with all strength at his command. During the 2009 general elections campaign, he continued to make tall promises that after forming the Government, he would do his best to improve the lot of Muslims, but no such thing appeared on the scene. Instead, political observers are of the view that Khursheed would give wrong suggestions to the Government in respect of reservation for Muslims. Though Dr. Singh has fully assessed the situation and is now completely aware of the problems being faced by the community, Muslims also expect of him that the Government will initiate some measures for their welfare, but Khursheed wants to keep himself aloof from advocating the cause for reservation for Muslims. That is why he has described reservation as non-profitable for the community. This makes it clear that he is a Muslim by name, but has no love lost for the community.

He argues that with the granting of reservation, efficiency among Muslims would come down and their capability to compete will reduce. Yet, if Muslims had the capacity and strength to compete, they would not have remained backward and would not have suffered humiliation. Despite their best efforts, they failed to come out of the pit of humiliation and helplessness. That is why grant of reservation to them is being talked about. It can empirically be said that other backward classes have profited from reservation granted to them. Today, they have the capacity to compete. Why then can the experiment not succeed for Muslims? It appears that Khursheed wants to present himself more secular than actually needed, so that even Hindu communalists remain beholden to him and the Hindu corridors remain open for him too. It is crystal clear that Muslims have suffered more at hands of Muslims.

Syed Shahbuddin’s Remarks
Noted former bureaucrat and Muslim leader Syed Shahbuddin has written a letter to Khursheed with regard to Muslims reservation. He has asked many pricking questions to Khursheed. He has queried that what harm would Khursheed have if Muslims get reservation? There are some States in the country that have given certain privileges to minorities, but heavens have not fallen, which has made Khursheed so dementiated. Why would the Muslim community lose its capabilities and efficiency? Shahbuddin has clarified that India is a democratic and secular State where all people should equally be benefited by facilities available here. This is the right of every citizen. The Constitution of India envisages that if the Government of India finds that a section of the population remains deprived, it is the duty of the Government to redress the situation and pay attention to the section deprived of its rights, help them so that they may stand should to shoulder with others.

Shahbuddin has drawn Khursheed's attention to the Sachar Committee report, saying that the report is highly reliable and that even the Supreme Court has lauded it. Legal luminaries in the country feel that it is a good document and if the recommendations were acted upon within a span of 10 years, Muslims would be able to compete with anyone. The Congress has returned to power for a second term, and Muslims have played a historic role in the party's return to power.

The Government is also fully aware of what expectations Muslims have of the Government. The wheel of action has begun to move, but Khursheed is throwing a spanner in that wheel to prevent its movement so that Muslims continue to be resigned to their lot and remain helpless and hapless.

Shahbuddin has called upon Khursheed to give a second thought to his inclination and he should consult others also before whatever he desires to say on Muslims. Anyway, it is a matter of conjecture whether reservation for Muslims gets implemented, or if the issue would continue to be debated for the sake of debate.

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