It agonises people like me who follow the voice of reason and sanity that the issue of quotas (a non-issue) for Muslims has turned into such a major point of contention. What is clear however is that the political establishment is not sincere about the community’s education and social uplift. It is still treating the
Muslims as a vote bank.
The Congress, which has approached the Supreme Court regarding the beleaguered minorities’ reservations after the Andhra Pradesh High Court refused it, is only good at paying lip-service. The Muslims must accept the fact that for the third consecutive time since 2004, the AP government’s attempt to provide reservations to the Muslim community failed judicial scrutiny. Earlier, the high court had quashed the government order in 2004 and another Act in 2005. West Bengal is making the same mistake. Salman Khursheed, the minorities affairs minister ought to know that history has proved time and again that reservations on communal lines are not in the interest of national unity and integrity.
For the Congress, the lesson comes from India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru had stated while addressing an important session of the Constituent Assembly on May 26, 1949: “If you seek to give safeguards to a minority, you isolate it. Maybe, you protect it to a slight extent but at what cost — at the cost of isolating and keeping it away from the main current.”
It would be worth examining also as to what the other founding fathers say about reservations. While a vote was sought for the charter of providing political safeguards to the minorities according to articles 292 and 294 of the 1949 draft Constitution, five leaders (all Muslims) out of seven, namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hussainbhoy Laljee and Tajammul Hussain had voted against it. Interestingly, Sardar Patel had vehemently supported the charter.
The problem with this kind of lop-sided reservation is that the real beneficiaries of reservation may be the economically well-off among the “backward community” members who generation after generation reap the benefits at the expense of those who are poor and illiterate.
The minority tag must be shunned by the Muslims. A day after the
reservations bill was passed (August 28, 1947), Maulana Hasrat Mohani, a member of the Constituent Assembly, had objected to the use of the word “minority” for Muslims. “I refuse to accept Muslims to be a minority. Now you say you have done away with this communalism. Are we not calling a minority to refer only to Muslims? The Muslims refuse to be called a minority if parties are formed on political line,” he had stated. Maulana was not allowed to speak further on the subject as the bill was already discussed and passed. As per this observation, the Muslims were a minority decades ago but now they are not. In fact, they are the second majority. However, two years later, Muslims were removed from the list of reservation beneficiaries while the scheduled castes have been receiving these benefits.
The process of reservation will hardly solve the community’s problems. It is divided into umpteen castes and sub-castes, a system Muslims have borrowed from the Hindus. Muslims have four major caste divisions: Ashraf at the top (Syed, Sheikh, Mughal and Pathan), Atraj, the second rung (Rajput, Tyagi, Thakur, Jaat), Azrab, the third rung (Julahe, Kunjre, Darzi, Mirasi, Qasab, Naiee, Mahigir etc), and Azlab, at the lowest rung (Halalkhor, Chamar and Lalbezi).
However, there is a way out of reservations. Let the Centre as well as the states institute financial aids on the basis of performance instead of seat reservations. If Muslims will compete, participate and become go-getters, India is bound to prosper. The voices of reason should demand that educational standards and qualifications should be uniform, whatever the language, religion or region.