People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 21, 2007
Development And Security Are Major Issues Confronting Muslims
A STATE level convention was organised at Bangalore in the recent past by CPI(M) Karnataka state committee to demand implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations for development of Muslim community. The convention evoked massive response with the participation of more than 800 people representing different districts of Karnataka. The composition of the gathering was also very encouraging – it ranged from workers in the organised sector to intellectuals and academics. Another important feature was that women constituted 50 per cent of the gathering. A significant number of non-Muslims also took part in the convention.
Inaugurating the convention CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, asserted that the country cannot really develop by excluding the nearly 150 million Muslims from the development process. He informed the gathering that the UPA government constituted the seven member committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar to study the social, educational and economic status of the Muslims and the CPI(M) played an important role in getting this done. The committee which submitted its report in November 2006 has nailed the propaganda of the BJP and right wing organisations about Muslim appeasement. If there was Muslim appeasement, how is it that the committee found their condition so miserable in terms of educational attainment, jobs in government, political and economic empowerment etc, he asked.
Prakash Karat criticised the UPA government for doing little to implement the recommendations of the Sachar committee for the development of Muslims despite accepting the recommendations. After dilly-dallying for months together after submission of the report, the government is talking of constituting committees to suggest ways and means of implementing these recommendations. The CPI(M) considers this unnecessary and demands immediate discussion in parliament. The West Bengal government has adopted a sub-plan on the lines of the sub-plan for tribal development that allocates funds in proportion to the Muslim population for their development. The CPI(M) has demanded the UPA government to adopt such a policy but the response received so far is not encouraging, he said. Karat called for an extensive broad-based campaign involving the entire progressive sections of Indian society for forcing the government to implement the Sachar recommendations. He felt this was imperative as alienation of Muslims due to lack of their development could prove harmful to democracy itself.
Addressing the convention briefly, CPI(M) state committee member Amanulla Khan -- who also presided over the convention -- threw light on the existing conditions of Muslims in Karnataka. The Muslims community constitutes 12.5 per cent of the state population and large number of them live in urban areas. The incidence of poverty among Muslims in urban centres is as high as 45 per cent. The Muslims in the state are backward socially, educationally and economically. Muslim children account for highest dropout rates after 7th standard. They account for only 3 per cent of the graduates in Karnataka. Muslim representation in government and public sector jobs is less than 5 per cent. A large number of Muslims are employed in the informal sector. Most of the Muslim women and children are employed in bidi and agarbathi industry where the levels of wages are very low and there is no social security. A large number of Muslims are engaged in self employment. The major occupations are darzi, blacksmith, auto repair and auto drivers. The self employed find bank credit for their business activities extremely difficult.
Another aspect is that the Muslims have suffered heavily during the communal riots in the state. Their means of livelihood in places like Kolar, K M Doddi, Bhatkal etc., were destroyed. With the BJP emerging as a dominant player in the state politics, also sharing power in the government, the Muslims in the state are feeling insecure. The BJP has been spreading the communal virus in the state with the aim of making political gains. In the recent past, Karnataka has witnessed a number of communal riots in which Muslims were the victims. Therefore, along with development, the issues of security and identity assume great importance in Karnataka.
The convention was also addressed by CPI(M) state secretary G N Nagaraj who gave a detailed picture of the level of deprivation of Muslims in Karnataka, particularly in the filed of education. He pointed out that the level of education of Muslims in Karnataka -- at least up to primary level -- is favourable as compared to the other states. This is due to the existence of around 4000 Urdu medium schools in the state. The Urdu schools suffer from shortage of teachers and lack of infrastructure and therefore, there is an immediate need to give attention to this aspect.
Speaking on the occasion CPI(M) MLA G V Srirama Reddy, said that the Congress and other bourgeois political parties never seriously pursued the issue of development of Muslims. The Muslims were used by these parties as mere vote banks. Therefore, it is necessary for the Muslim community to identify their friends and join hands with them in struggle to secure the benefits of development.
More than 18 delegates spoke in the convention sharing their experiences and making suggestions for the development of Muslim community in Karnataka. Among the prominent suggestions made were establishment of more Urdu medium schools in the densely Muslim populated areas; making available bank credit easily to the small businesses run by Muslims; giving vocational training to the Muslim children in trades which can help them secure jobs and better utilisation of income of the Wakfs for the welfare of the widows, divorcees and destitute. The convener of CPI(M) Minorities cell, Mujeeb, placed the charter of demands and summed up the debate.
The convention adopted the charter of demands placed, which pertained to issues of education, employment and security for the development for Muslim community. Some of the demands were based on the suggestions made by the participants in the debate. The decisions of the convention came in for all round appreciation. The CPI(M) state committee has decided to follow up these issues both with the state government and through a campaign among the people.