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'Reservation is not a favour to Muslims, it is our right'

Krishnakumar P in New Delhi | February 02, 2009 11:00 IST
Last Updated: February 02, 2009 12:31 IST

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Muslims should demand reservation on the basis of their socio-economic backwardness and not on the basis of religion, community elders and leaders, who came together to discuss the issue of reservation.

The Joint Committee of Muslim Organisations for Empowerment, which organised the National Convention for Muslim Reservation in New Delhi [Images] on Sunday, demanded that Muslims must be considered as backward and get at least 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education.

Most speakers, while demanding the implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report, which had recommended 15 per cent reservation for minorities with 10 per cent exclusively for Muslims plus the unutilised portion of the other five per cent, also demanded that Muslims and Christian Dalits be included in the Scheduled Caste list.

The organisation also demanded the implementation of the Sachar Committee report. Former chief justice A M Ahmadi, who was among the speakers, said that of all the minorities, the Muslim community has over the last 60 years remained marginalised in all walks of life. "They have been victims of both direct and indirect discrimination. A special effort is needed to bring them to the mainstream," he said, justifying the need for reservation.

He also quoted the Sachar Committee report, which had stated that the condition of Muslims in India is no better than that of SC/STs. "I have no hesitation in saying that the considerations similar to those that weighed with the Constitution makers in providing reservations to SC/ST largely prevail as far as Muslims are concerned," Ahmadi said.

Among political leaders, Lok Janashakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan spoke on the supposed 50 per cent ceiling that the Supreme Court has laid down for
reservations (for example, the Mandal Committee put the Other Backward Classes population at 52 per cent, which secured them 27 per cent reservation) "The 50 per cent ceiling for quota is not mentioned in the Constitution but is only an inference by the apex court," he said.

According to Communist Party of India General Secretary A B Bardhan, a large portion of the Muslim community in India was suffering from a sense of alienation and frustration, which is dangerous for the country.

"In the course of the struggle, we will have to find further proof for securing reservation for the community as a whole," he said, adding, "There will also be a need to devise ways of addressing the reservation ceiling of 50 per cent".

While prominent community leaders and politicians came up with the obvious, it was the lesser known delegates who spoke about the practical problems and presented radical ideas.

Students Islamic Organisation secretary Shahnawaz declared that Muslims were not seeking reservations as a favour from the state, but as a right.

"We should not think of this as a charity. We form 13.4 per cent of the population. Ten per cent of the Muslim population is affluent and does not need affirmative action. That leaves us with 12 per cent of the nation's population. So we must ask for exactly 12 per cent reservation, which is our due. Not 10 per cent, which will be an apologetic gesture, nor 15 per cent, which will be an unjust demand," he said.

P A Inamdar, educationist and philanthropist from Pune, placed a subtle counter to this argument and said the community must seek 'adequate' and not 'proportional' reservation.

"This is the only way in which the needy will truly be served," he said. He added that reservation on the basis of social backwardness will also ensure that all the right sections of the community get their due.

Ibnais Mohammed of the Muslim Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam interpreted the issue differently. He told the gathering, "We should think of India as a corporate entity and its people as stakeholders. We have 15 per cent stake, and we deserve our share," he concluded.

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