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Muslims in the Army: A dangerous census
Did his book spark off the Army census?
The Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee report on social, economic and educational status of Muslims across the country was tabled in Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The committee has favoured a group of Muslims with traditional occupations as that of scheduled castes be designated as most backward classes and provided 'multifarious measures,' including reservation. The panel has said Muslims in the country have three groups in terms of their social structure. These are ashrafs, ajlafs and arzals.
"The three groups require different types of affirmative action," said the report, tabled by Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay.
Of the three groups, arzals whose traditional occupation is similar to that of SCs, may be designated as MBCs and provided reservation. This particular group, the panel said, needs multifarious measures including reservation as it remains 'cumulatively oppressed.'
Antulay later told reporters that the report is the 'best thing' that has happened to the community. The issue of reservation has been dealt in the chapter on 'Muslim OBCs and Affirmative Action.'
The number of Muslims in security agencies was 3.2 per cent -- 60,517 out of the total of 18,79,134 in CRPF, CISF, BSF, SSB and 'other agencies,' it said without specifying whether armed forces were included or not. The Muslims' headcount in the armed forces sought by the panel had triggered a controversy in Parliament sometime back.
Observing that a 'very small' proportion of government/public sector employees are Muslims, concentrated in lower level positions, the panel recommended that it may be desirable to have minority persons on interview panels. This can be done on the lines of SC/ST participation in panels, it said.
The committee recommended constitution of a 'equal opportunity commission' to look into grievances of deprived groups. It said an example of such a policy tool is the UK Race Relations Act, 1976.
Such a measure while providing a redressal mechanism for different types of discrimination will give a further reassurance to minorities that any unfair action against them will invite the vigilance of the law, it said.
Noting that Muslim participation in electoral bodies is known to be small, the report said of the 543 Lok Sabha members, only 33 are Muslims. The panel made out a strong case to put mechanisms in place to enable Muslims to engage in democratic processes and governance.
"Mere material change will not bring about the true empowerment of the minorities; they need to acquire and be given the required collective agency."
It said a carefully conceived 'nomination procedure' can be worked out to increase the participation of minorities at grassroots. Mechanism should be put in place so that a large number of minorities are indeed nominated to increase their participation in public bodies.
It has suggested that the steps taken by Andhra Pradesh to promote participation of deprived sections in elected bodies could be used to enhance Muslim participation in the decision-making processes.
Noting that over the last 60 years, minorities have scarcely occupied adequate public spaces, it said the participation of Muslims in 'nearly all political spaces is low, which can have an adverse impact on Indian society and polity in the long run.'
"Given the power of numbers in a democratic polity, based on universal franchise, minorities in India lack effective agency and political importance," the 404-page report said.
The minorities, it said, 'do not have the necessary influence or the opportunity to either change or even influence events, which enable their meaningful and active participation in development process.' The committee has recommended elimination of anomalies with respect to reserved constituencies under the delimitation schemes.
"A more rational delimitation procedure that does not reserve constituencies with high minority population shares for SCs will improve the opportunity for minorities, especially Muslims, to contest and get elected to Parliament and state assemblies," the report said.
Referring to educational opportunities for Muslims, the committee recommended mechanisms where madrassa can be linked with a higher secondary school board so that students wanting to shift to a regular/mainstream education can do so after having passed from a madrassa.
It recommended recognition of degrees from madrassas for eligibility in competitive examinations such as civil services, banks, defence services and other such examinations. It also suggested that a process of evaluating the content of the school textbooks needed to be initiated and institutionalised.
The seven-member committee was constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] in March this year and its tenure was extended till November 30. The report has come against the backdrop of the prime minister's observation that Muslims should get a 'fair share' in government jobs, which had triggered a debate.
The formation of the committee had created uproar in Parliament due to the committee's reported move to seek a head count of Muslims in armed forces.
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