Quotas on religious grounds will work against backward Muslims, says Shabbir Ansari

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 - 6:40am IST | Agency: DNA

After the severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, the ruling Congress and NCP are falling back on quota politics to shore up their fortunes in the assembly elections. There are indications that reservation benefits may now be extended to Muslims and Marathas.

However, some leaders like Shabbir Ansari of All India Muslim OBC Organisation oppose the move to grant quotas to Muslims on religious grounds because he believes it would work against backward Muslims, who would find themselves being elbowed out by the affluent upper caste Muslims.

Ansari, who spoke to dna, dismissed the move as one with an eye on votes during the assembly elections. He also mooted the need to strengthen the quota system for OBC Muslims, who form a huge proportion of the community.

Presently, over 58 classes in the Muslim community have been included in the OBC category and 10 classes in the Vimukta Jaati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) category. Similarly, Muslim castes like Tadvi Pathans and Cheetah Pardhis have been included in scheduled tribes (ST), while others are in the scheduled castes (SC) category.

Excerpts:

The demand for reservations for Muslims has been revived and there are indications that the state government may take a decision on it before the assembly polls. Your comments.
This will not alleviate the problems of Muslims. The issue has been revived with an eye on polls. It will not be possible to implement it. They (Congress-NCP) were in power even before, why didn't they do it then? It's necessary that the report of the Mehmood-ur-Rehman committee (which studied the condition of Muslims in Maharashtra) be discussed in the legislature. Why hasn't that been done? The state backward classes commission must also give its recommendations on this. The demand for reservations for Muslims (on religious grounds as opposed to the something based on backwardness), is not possible. The issue is being raised just for votes.

There are fears that quotas based purely on religious grounds may lead to the well-entrenched upper caste Muslims elbowing out the poorer, backward Muslims.
Yes, Ashraf Muslims will reap most of the benefits. They have money, so the poor will find it difficult to compete with them. There should be no religion-based quotas. Like Hindus, Muslims too have social sections based on occupation. For example, like the Shimpis (tailors) among Hindus, Muslims have the Darji community.

What are the technical issues involved in granting Muslims reservations?
Technical issues need to be taken into account. Courts have been hearing cases on quotas for Muslims. The Constitution does not allow reservations on religious grounds. A committee under industries minister Narayan Rane was formed to examine quotas for the Maratha community. Why hasn't something like that been done for Muslims? The government is merely dangling carrots before us.

What is the way out? How can the state ensure the welfare of Muslims?
A majority of Muslims are OBCs. The OBCs must be strengthened. They face a lot of problems, like for example, in getting caste certificates and its verification. The government resolutions (GR) on granting certificates are not clear. Officials, hence, act arbitrarily and refuse certificates to people with an eye on making money.

Under the Prime Minister's 15-point programme, minority students are supposed to get scholarships, but that has not been implemented. The government must first issue clear circulars and GRs. The system of caste verification must be done away with like in other states. The caste certificate must be treated as final. That will eradicate corruption in the verification system. Rules must be relaxed. How can workers and the poor be expected to have proper documentation on their caste? How will the homeless have such documents? Hence, a system of door to door surveys must be adopted. A GR was issued in this regard in 1995, but it has not been implemented.


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