The move of the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh to introduce religion-based reservations is delusory and we have opposed it unreservedly. Though the media speaks only of the VHP and BJP moves in court against the G.O. of the Andhra Pradesh government, what people do not know is that our organisation has also challenged the move in court.
Under the Constitution, reservations apply to only those categories of persons who are both socially and educationally backward and the paradigm for deciding this has been the overriding reality of caste in India. The ceiling on this reservation has been fixed at a maximum of 50 per cent.
As the AP Government G.O. says there are already caste-based reservations in the A, B, C and D categories where, in the B category, Muslims from the Nadaf, Pinjara, Doodekala, Noorbas, Qureish, Paasi, Mochi and Bunkar castes are already getting reservations along with others from the OBC category. All of this already amounts to 49.5 per cent reservations, so with this thoughtless move by the AP government, pandering to the elite mussalmaan, total reservation will go beyond the ceiling limit and the Supreme Court is more than likely to strike it down. Sensing this, the AP government has already indicated in the high court (July 27, 2004) that it will modify its G.O. since it has been misconceived.
As to the demand of elite Muslims for separate religion-based reservation in the E category, we are clear that this is nothing but a sop. ‘E’ stands for ‘Elite’ and those are the only Muslims who will benefit from it. The irony is that while in the other caste categories, the Muslim OBC struggles and competes sometimes for 2-6 per cent of the general quota, here, Muslims who are in no way socially or educationally backward will benefit. It is no secret who will benefit and we oppose this tooth and nail. We have already challenged the AP government G.O. in court and protested through a dharna on the streets.
The state government’s deliberate attempt to pander to the Muslim elite and the Muslim elite’s attempts to delude the entire Muslim community is thus revealed. Point 3 and 4 of the AP government G.O. speak of the poorest of the poor among Muslims, the labourer, the daily wage earner, the repair shop worker, etc., who would benefit from the move. What was the focus of the debate among Muslims on the day the AP high court rightly stayed religion-based reservations for Muslims? – That now over 3,000 students of engineering and 1,500 in medical colleges would not get benefits and admission. What is the family background of the students who can get into these colleges in the first place? – The already well-placed and privileged Muslims!
Religion-based reservation is a wrong move and we shall oppose it every step of the way. Will we not learn from history? Azadi ke pehle kya hua? (What happened before Independence?) There was reservation on the basis of religion, not social and educational backwardness. Uska natija kya hua? Mufat mein desh ka batwara hua! (What was the result? The country was partitioned for nothing!) Four per cent of Muslims voted for a bloody partition of the country and the poor toiling classes had no say!
We want reservations on the basis of social and economic backwardness for the Muslim who lives in jhuggi-jhopdis (hutments), who repairs cycle punctures, who becomes the victim of communal violence and frenzy. They are 90 per cent of India’s Muslims. We do not want reservation for the Muslim elite who only responds to issues like Babri Masjid, personal law and triple talaq. As if the community faces no other issues or problems!
This latest move by the AP government is an example of the typical two-faced policies of political parties hand in glove with the Muslim elite. In the name of the whole Muslim community you want only the elite Muslims to benefit, they who are in no way really affected.
We want reservations that are legally valid and constitutional. Moreover, we want an amendment to Article 341 of the Indian Constitution, the article that has since the 1950s banned those Dalits who have converted to Islam or Christianity from benefits that are available to Dalits in India. Out of the total Muslim population in India, 10 crore Muslims belong to this category and they must, through an egalitarian constitutional amendment, be allowed to avail of this benefit on the basis of caste.
That leaves some of the poorest of our people who come from the savarna castes, be they Hindu, Muslim or Christian. This is a new category, of economic backwardness, not so far recognised by the Constitution. We believe that these persons should also benefit from reservations but this can be done only after the Constitution is suitably amended to include economic backwardness as a criterion whereupon the constitutional ceiling of 50 per cent will also have to be modified. This new ground for reservations should only be brought about after an All India Commission deliberates and determines the people worthy of these benefits. That is, of course, a different debate but something that we also support.
But I repeat that this move by the AP government is not only retrograde but also dangerous. It is a move by the government, hand in glove with the Muslim elite, to keep the rest of the community asleep, un-awakened and un-empowered. The elite Muslim leadership keeps harping on similar reservations that already exist in Karnataka and Kerala. Karnataka does not have religion-based reservations. Only in Kerala is there religion-based reservation, 10 per cent in some categories of employment and 12 per cent in others.
The situation in Kerala requires careful study for, except the Thingal and Mopallah Muslims who are rich and powerful, the community as a whole has not benefited. Specifically, the Puslar Muslims who are the fishermen, barbers, the Qureish, the Mochi have not benefited at all. Why then should the majority of Muslims want such a reservation?
The bottom line is what do we want from reservations? That they benefit a whole class and/or society as a whole. When this has not happened after decades of religion-based reservation in Kerala why should it happen in AP or the rest of the country?
We do not want any wrongs repeated, historical wrongs that have cost the country and community dearly. The All India Backward Mocha is a strong movement across ten states with a ten-lakh membership and we will fight this retrograde development on the streets and in the courts. For 56 years no Muslim intellectual or leader has given any thought or weight to speaking of the nuts and bolts issues concerning Muslims in India. For the first time, on December 18, 2003, thanks to the pressure exerted by our organisation, we managed to initiate a full-fledged debate on the Dalit Muslim issue in Parliament. Meanwhile, the elite among us are happy debating Babri Masjid, triple talaq and personal laws!
Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2004. Year 10, No. 99, Special Report 5