People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 08, 2007
CPI(M) ALL INDIA CONVENTION CALL
Fight For Implementation Of Sachar Committee Recommendations
THE CPI(M) held an All India Convention on the recommendations of the Justice Sachar Committee on March 30 in New Delhi. Nearly 200 delegates of the Party from across the country participated in the convention with tremendous enthusiasm. The convention, after substantial discussions, adopted the recently released ‘CPI(M)’s Charter for Advancement of Muslim community’ amid thunderous applause.
The opening address in the convention was delivered by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat who emphasised the need to implement the recommendations of the Justice Sachar Committee without delay. He argued that the BJP’s charge of ‘Muslim appeasement’ had been comprehensively shattered by the findings of the Sachar Committee, and that it was now imperative upon the UPA to act on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee in order to ameliorate the deplorable condition of the Muslim minorities of the country.
Karat explained that the Charter for the advancement of Muslims had been prepared by the Party keeping in view four broad concerns – development, education, employment and security. This Charter had been circulated among various organisations and eminent citizens for feedback and would be finalised after incorporating all responses, including those discussed in this convention. An important component of the Charter was the demand for reservations for OBC and dalit Muslims. However, the Supreme Court’s judgment on the implementation of 27 per cent OBC reservation in central educational institutions has set a disturbing trend, felt Karat. Already, previous judgments like those in the TMA Pai and Inamdar cases have made educational access increasingly difficult for the poor and the deprived. In such a context, the question of educational access for Muslims, which is also a question of social justice, was bound to face greater impediments. Prakash Karat also said that the Party as well as the West Bengal government had taken initiatives for the formulation of a sub-plan for the minorities with the Planning Commission, and that this demand would be pursued along with the remaining demands in the Charter with the UPA.
CPI(M)’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha and convenor of minorities sub-committee of CPI(M) central committee, Md Salim, placed the Demands Charter prepared by the Party before the delegates. Among the multifarious recommendations made by the Sachar Committee, the Party had decided to focus upon the most pressing demands in order to prepare a concrete road map for the advancement of the Muslim minorities in the country. He cautioned against any dilution of the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee by the Congress Party, which has a long history of tokenism. He also emphasised that the demand for taking concrete policy initiatives for the advancement of the Muslim minorities of the country was not a sectarian demand of the Muslims alone, but a concern of all the secular and democratic minded people of the country.
Salim also said that so far the issues confronting the Muslim community of India were largely restricted to communalism, security, terrorism etc., but the Sachar Committee Report had helped bring focus on the socio-economic plight of the Muslims. He also acknowledged that the Sachar Committee Report has made some critical observations regarding the condition of Muslims in West Bengal and said that the Left Front government has taken immediate policy initiatives to overcome these shortcomings.
Various Polit Bureau and central committee members of the Party attended the convention.
Over 30 delegates participated in the discussions on the Charter during the day. All of them were unanimous in their appreciation and enthusiasm over the initiative of the Party in holding an All India Convention in the light of the Sachar Committee recommendations. The discussion mainly focused around the diverse challenges faced by the Muslim community in various parts of the country and the steps required to improve their condition.
Delegates from West Bengal emphasised the need to significantly improve the overall budgetary allocation for education, especially for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan programme and skill based education. The limitations in the functioning of the Maulana Azad Foundation, Wakf Boards, Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme, promotion of Urdu language and National Minorities Development Corporation (NMDC) were also pointed out. The need to have more focus on the question of land reforms, advancement of Muslim women, central financial allocations and empowerment of the Panchayats – which didn’t figure prominently in the Sachar Committee Report – were also specified. The steps taken by the Party in West Bengal for the improvement of the overall condition of the Muslim minorities were reported. A time bound Action Plan regarding education, scholarships, madarsa education, self-employment, enhancement of credits, land reforms, financial outlay enhancement, promotion of communal harmony etc has been made by the West Bengal government. A 15 per cent budgetary sub-plan for the Muslim minority in the state has also been announced. A Task Force headed by the chief minister will ensure the time bound implementation of the plan. Those participating in the discussion also pointed out that both imperialism and communalism were creating a hostile environment for Muslims in the present context. In West Bengal the backwardness of the Muslims can be attributed primarily to the partition which was also accompanied by communalism. While the Left Front has made substantial strides in providing security to the Muslims, the aspect of making positive discrimination for the Muslims in view of their backwardness could be improved further.
Delegates from Tripura pointed out the sharp fall in the Muslim population of the state since independence and the poor condition of the Muslim community. However, since the formation of the Left Front government in Tripura, the democratic participation of Muslims in the political process had witnessed a substantial improvement. Concrete steps have been taken by the government for the improvement of education, health and social welfare of religious minorities, particularly girls. However, many socio-political problems still prevail due to proximity with the Bangladesh border, which need to be addressed further through political and democratic initiatives.
Delegates from Maharashtra talked about the continued occurrence of communal violence, police high-handedness and victimisation of the Muslims in the state. The Congress party has been complicit in all these instances, including in its support to the Bajrang Dal in Nanded, therefore, its attempt to project itself as the well wisher of the Muslim community is totally hypocritical. Security as well as socio-economic development is the prime concern of the Muslims in the state. Along with the implementation of the Srikrishna Committee Report, the promulgation of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill must also be expedited. Reservation for Muslim OBCs and dalits must be in proportion to their population share. The delegates emphasised the need for the Party to further popularise the Sachar Committee recommendations throughout the country.
UP delegates said that although their state is home to the largest Muslim population in the country, their condition was very bad. The weavers have been very badly affected and compelled to commit suicide. There is difficulty in obtaining loans. The situation in education is also deplorable. Madarsa education is not up to the mark. Therefore, the implementation of the Charter prepared by the Party was the need of the hour.
Delegates from Andhra Pradesh shared their experience of forming the platform of ‘Aawaaz’ after the Gujarat genocide in 2002 against communalism. Issues like scholarships, education, reservations, land redistribution and reform of the Wakf Board have been undertaken through this platform which impacted positively. Significant advances have been made by the Party in winning the confidence of the Muslim minorities of the state through these initiatives. Electoral gains have also been registered in some places. Raising the demand of improving the socio-economic condition of the Muslim minority has received widespread support and drawn the Muslim community towards the Left-democratic alternative. This in turn has also strengthened the fight against communalism. The present initiative of the Party in ensuring the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations should be carried forward further, they stressed.
The Rajasthan delegate spoke about the discriminatory policies of the BJP government in the state. Religious processions have become the predictable sites of communal riots in the state. Madarsas are being systematically targeted. Major encroachments have taken place on madarsa lands which are being sold to Keshav Vidhya Peeths for a pittance. The education of Muslim girls has suffered drastically and there is a need for more girls’ hostels. The central government must be compelled to implement the recommendation of the Sachar Committee for the cause of Muslim welfare in Rajasthan.
From Orissa, the delegate spoke about marginalisation of Muslims in education, jobs, technical education as well as politics. No Muslim has been elected as MP from the state since independence. Madarsas are also by far too few. Urdu language has witnessed a steady decline. The government does not offer any support to minority educational institutions. The State Minorities Commission is also non-functional. Therefore, the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations will help in addressing the long pending problem of the backwardness of Muslims in Orissa.
From Punjab those who spoke reported that the Wakf Board has substantial properties in the state. However, instead of contributing to the welfare of the Muslims, these properties are being sold off. The need for girls’ hostels and modernisation of madarsas was emphasised. Recruitment of more Muslims in the army, police and paramilitary forces was also stressed.
The delegate from Gujarat appreciated the efforts made by the Party for ensuring relief package for those affected in communal violence of 2002. The urgent need for instituting a CBI enquiry into the entire Gujarat carnage was emphasised. All kinds of hate campaigns and harassment are being unleashed by the RSS in the state against the Muslims. In such a context, the Congress party has completely abandoned the fight for justice for the Muslim minority. The schemes for the welfare of the Muslim minority in Gujarat need to be pursued with special focus and emphasis.
Himachal Pradesh delegate pointed out that many challenges were being faced by the Muslims in the state due to their small proportion in the population. Neglect of the welfare of the Muslims is widespread in State policies. As a result high levels of illiteracy exist among the Muslims. Muslims are generally viewed with a degree of suspicion. Therefore, reservations, education for Muslim girls and promotion of Urdu language need special focus in the state.
The delegate from Karnataka emphasised that the two main areas of focus for the development of Muslims in the state are education and security. With the BJP sharing power in the state, the instances of communal riots have substantially increased. The State machinery is complicit in these riots. All campaign by the BJP to prevent the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations will have to be countered. Some Muslim organisations may also oppose CPI(M) charter of demands because it contains the demand of reservation for Muslim dalits.
Delegates from Kerala shared the specific challenges faced by the Muslim community in the state. Although Muslims continue to be backward in the state however, many initiatives of the Left Front governments in Kerala have helped improve their condition. Muslims have benefited substantially by the land reforms and educational reforms initiated by the EMS government in 1957. Enrolment of Muslims outside madarsas has increased substantially after 1957 due to increase in educational access of government schools. However, most of the educational institutions in the state are run by the minorities and instead of working for the benefit of the minorities they are engaged in crass profiteering. Therefore, this unique problem also needs to be addressed. By and large the security of the Muslims in Kerala is ensured, but the forces of both majority as well as minority communalism are present in different districts. The initiative of forming vigilance committees to check communal riots may be undertaken by the Party. In the area of employment, many Muslims work in the Gulf to earn a living. The economy and society of the state of Kerala are substantially different from that of other states, therefore, some different initiatives are required in Kerala for the benefit of the Muslim minorities.
The delegate from Assam pointed out that Muslims in the state have always faced the brunt of the attack on the question of citizenship. Their nationality has been repeatedly questioned and till date this problem is not comprehensively addressed. As a result Muslims have also been ignored in various welfare policies of the state and their condition is very bad. The actual condition of the Muslims in the state is much worse than that pointed out by the figures in the Sachar Committee Report. Those Muslims who have been displaced internally in the state due to natural calamities also face many problems. Therefore, the basic question of citizenship, voting rights, and residential certificates need priority. Simultaneously, more funds must be given by the centre to the state in proportion of the Muslim population.
Many initiatives have been taken in Tamil Nadu with regards to popularising the Party’s charter of demands and the Sachar Committee recommendations. This has generated good response, but there is also some opposition from sections within the Muslims on the demand of reservations for Muslim dalits. One of the problems faced by the Muslims in the state is police high handedness. The educational condition of Muslims is not very bad largely due to reservations for OBC Muslims. However, the situation in employment is not very good and reservations are required there. The National Minorities Commission must also be given statutory status so that it starts acting proactively for the benefit of the minorities.
Delegates from Jharkahand pointed out that the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme is very bad in several districts of the state, especially those with substantial Muslim population. The need for modernisation of madarsas and improvement of education and health are very acute.
From Uttrakhand, delegates pointed out the need for systematic improvement in the recruitment of Muslims in the police force. Fee cuts were required in private colleges of the state in order to facilitate the education of Muslims who are generally poor. The need for more girls’ hostels was also pointed out.
The delegate from Delhi said that the Sachar Committee Report had made it possible to take policy initiatives targeted at the Muslim community directly. A National Data Bank which collects such data on a regular basis must be instituted by the government. Issues like enactment of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill, improved functioning of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, disbursement of the Maulana Azad Fellowship for minorities, reservations for OBC and dalit Muslims, recognition of madarsa certificates in universities, access to easy credit and skill upgradation programmes were also emphasised.
Delegates from Bihar pointed out that the experience of State-run madarsas in Bihar was not very positive. Many privately funded madarsas were trying to address the educational backwardness of Muslims. While the backward condition of Muslims is well known, very serious efforts are required for the fulfilment of this Charter because all such issues have been neglected earlier as well.
The delegate from Chattisgarh pointed out that one of the positive outcomes of the Sachar Committee Report is that it has helped shift the focus of the Muslim community towards socio-economic issues. The charge of terrorism against Muslims is seriously demoralising the community. Reservation for Muslims is required to ameliorate their condition.
Delegates from Madhya Pradesh talked about the communalisation of the State machinery by the RSS-BJP. The general state of public facilities was also criticised. On the one hand education is being communalised and on the other hand madarsas are being targeted, thereby, seriously affecting the education of Muslims. Within the OBC reservation, the quantum of reservation for Muslim OBCs must also be specified; otherwise the benefits of reservation will not reach the Muslims. Popularising the demand for the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations will help both in addressing the backwardness of Muslims in the state as well as bringing them into the fold of the larger democratic struggle.
The delegate from Jammu and Kashmir said the political uncertainty in the state has been negatively impacting the Muslim community. The democratic rights of the people have been systematically denied and the instances of fake encounters are on the rise. Labourers in J&K have been killed for raising their voice for fundamental needs. The deep discontent among the people in the state is resulting in many young people being misguided. Therefore, the struggle in J&K is still for ensuring basic and fundamental rights.
The delegate from Harayana said that a convention had been organised recently in the state on the condition of Muslims. In many schools not even a single Muslim student can be found. Clashes have taken place over graveyards in the state. Therefore, this problem also needs to be addressed.
Women delegates who spoke emphasised the need to better the condition of Muslim women in the country. The need for changes in the Muslim personal law is still pertinent. Health centres, civic amenities and hostels for women are required all over the country. Steps like reservation for girls in minority institutions are also required to improve overall enrolment of girls. While pursuing the Charter for the advancement of Muslims in the country, caution must be maintained by our movement to ensure that the benefits of all measures reach the women within the community. Already the Sachar Committee has not addressed the question of Muslim women adequately; however, the government must not be allowed to escape its responsibilities towards Muslim women. The upliftment of the Muslim women in India is both a community as well as a state issue.
Md Salim replied to the discussion at the end emphasising the need to build a broad based unity on the Charter regarding the advancement of the Muslim minorities in order to ensure that this initiative does not become the demand of the Muslim minorities alone. Prakash Karat in his concluding remarks emphasised the need to popularise this Charter all over the country through the Party as well as broad based initiatives so that the genuine grievances of the Muslim minority are addressed in a systematic manner. He referred to the reference made by several women speakers to the need for personal law reform for the benefit of Muslim women and said that the Party would continue to make interventions in this respect.
Karat also said that similar conventions will be organised in all states of the country. The Party’s Charter for Advancement of Muslim Community was passed amidst tremendous applause and expectations.