Communal Reservations via the back door?
How many of you noticed this piece of “news” from about 2 months ago (emphasis added)?
The Centre is proposing to introduce reservation for Muslims in educational institutions and employment on the lines of Andhra Pradesh government, Union Minister for Law and Justice Salman Khursheed indicated in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Talking to reporters here after participating in a ‘Solidarity Meeting on Palestine’ organised by the Indo-Arab League here, he said: “I don’t know whether it is a Bill. There will be separate reservation. It is not necessary to have another Bill. It may be done through a government notification. We are having it examined.
Now, this was not really shocking – nor entirely unexpected. In fact, once Justice Mishra had declared that “..the minorities- especially the Muslims…should be regarded as backward“, I’d feared that this was only a matter of time. With the elections in UP round the corner, the time appears to be now. Unfortunately this announcement did not get much attention from an otherwise hyperactive media – although I am sure at least some will act surprised when the next step follows (either a Bill or a government notification).
I’m trying hard not to get despondent about this – and not to read too much into it. But most people of my age (and older) know, that these things are almost always the thin end of the wedge – and any reservation – once introduced – would be extremely hard – if not impossible, to remove. But the silence on this issue perplexes me. Are we really so naive that we are unaware of the damage this can cause? or gone beyond the point where we care?
And what about our so-called “leaders”? Does anyone really believe that poverty comes in quotas? It does not. Don’t our politicians get it? Of course, they do. But while poverty may not come in quotas, votes do. And that is the reason why this pernicious move may yet come to pass…And what about the saner voices among Muslims?
Why don’t we have more voices like Maulana Kalbe Sadiq (Vice President, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board):
‘‘Koi bhi qaum baisakhion ke sahare hamesha nahin chal sakti…usme jaan paida karni hogi*..” (No community can move forward on crutches…we need to instil life into it).
Actually it is obvious to see why. Because once the community realises how they have been made pawns in the great game that is Indian politics, their so-called “leaders” will find it hard to find a place to hide. As I wrote on the blog, almost five years ago, this move is..
…a sham pretending to be a welfare measure.
If the government is really concerned about socio-economic development of Muslims in India in general, they would a] emphasise the need for reform within the community b] focus on improving the lot of women c] implement uniform civil code and d] closely examine the funding of madrasas and their curriculum.
But none of these measures are likely to garner any votes; in fact, they are likely to provoke outrage – not least amongst sections of the “secular intelligentsia”. Thankfully, saner voices do exist. And they give me hope. I stumbled upon one such voice earlier today. His name is Tanvir Salim. In a post a few days on his blog, he wrote (emphasis added):
One important factor of the educational backwardness of Muslims in India is the system of the Madrasa education prevalent in the Muslim community. The Madrasa education has its own advantages and disadvantages. Most of the students of socially, economically and educationally backward sections of the community begin their education from these Madrasas and Maktabs. At these places the education is relatively cheap and often the books are also arranged free of the cost.
…It is sad that these Madrasa people do not follow the message of Islam, which clearly states that one can go to China for seeking knowledge. They tend to stay local and avoid peeping to the outside world for knowledge. It is unfortunate that they limit the scope of learning and acquiring knowledge only to the religious education and that is why their knowledge about Science, Art, Engineering, Business, and Administration and even of humanities is generally poor.
…The need of the hour is to reform the Madrasa education to the extent it is possible. But the strong network of sectarian Ulemas will not allow major reform in the setup.
Unfortunately such voices are few and far between. And they rarely get heard. And if you think I am exaggerating the danger and the threat, read this (from Oct ’09; emphasis added):
The Centre will ask public and private sector companies to do a religion-based headcount of their employees as part of an effort to end discrimination.
The companies will be requested to prepare a database that will have all details of their staff, including religion and caste, minority affairs ministry sources said.
…“We are going to make it mandatory for all corporate houses to maintain a database of their staff. This would give the government…a clear idea about the social and religious diversity among the workforce.”
Regardless, the move now looks imminent:
The minority affairs ministry has now suggested a separate 6% quota for Muslims by designating the entire community as “backward”. In a separate move, the ministry has circulated a summary of its proposal for Muslim reservation to 25 states and 20 ministries for comments. [source]
And so the process of slowly dividing India continues – one step at a time.
Later, however, this proposal was considered more thoroughly by the Constituent Assembly’s Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and Minorities, and Tribal and Excluded Areas headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
This Advisory Committee consisted of a galaxy of great leaders of the freedom movement including Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Dr S.P. Mookerjee, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Dr K.M. Munshi, Purushottamdas Tandon, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant and Gopinath Bordoloi. Pandit Nehru was a special invitee to the meeting of the committee, which finally expressed that ‘the committee are satisfied that the minorities themselves feel that in their own interests, no less than in the interests of the country as a whole, the statutory reservation of seats for religious minorities should be abolished.’
Commending his Committee’s Report in the Constituent Assembly on 27 February 1947, Sardar Patel said: In the long run, it would be in the interest of all to forget that there is anything like a majority or a minority in this country and that in India there is only one community.