(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 28, 2010
Reservation for Backward Muslims in
8, 2010 is likely
to be regarded as a red-letter day in the socio-economic history of
We do understand that religion cannot be the basis of reservation in jobs, but here the sole criterion is backwardness. From now on, 10 per cent of the jobs will be reserved for such Muslims as are economically and educationally backward. As already there is seven per cent reservation for other backward classes (OBCs), the total reaches 17 per cent after the addition of this 10 per cent. This benefit is only for those Muslims who have been lagging behind. The forward Muslim population will not come under the ambit of this reservation. In concrete figures, Muslims having a yearly income of Rs 4.5 lakh or above cannot avail of this benefit. At present, reservation will be provided in the matter of jobs; the question of providing reservation for backward Muslims in education is being discussed and will be decided later
will be the process
for the identification of backward Muslims? A commission has been
The whole process will consist of three stages --- identifying the backward sections; excluding the rich among them (whose yearly income is Rs 4.5 lakh or above); and providing the identified persons with certificates by the concerned government office at the earliest.
will be the process
of implementation? Whether it will be through a bill in the assembly or
ordinance or by an administrative order? That will be finalised later
thorough consideration. The chief minister has announced the formation
committee that will take stock of the entire situation. Representatives
the state’s minority development department, OBC welfare department and
commissions (minority commission and
Muslim population in
few illustrations may
be helpful in this regard. Among the Muslims, there is a community
named Guri. They are basically fishermen. Actually,
they are called so because they catch tiny (guro)
fishes. In this author’s own village, there is a hamlet called
Berhampore has a road named
Midnapore, again, there
are the Kelas and Kherias who have many things in common with the
tribes. However, though the latter have the benefits of reservation,
miss it on the ground that they are Muslims. There is the Ghoshi
Barrackpore and Kharagpur; they once came there from
These are the specific reasons that justify an expansion of the OBC list. At present, there are 66 communities in the list, but the number must increase. When any community applies for inclusion in the OBC list, a hearing takes place to determine its status. The commission can also take an initiative on its own in this regard. Today, some people say the number of applicants in this connection will be only a negligible portion of the Muslim population. However, if all the backward Muslims are enlisted in accordance with the chief minister’s announcement, the number will not be that small. In this connection it s pertinent to recall what Dr B R Ambedkar said on this score: “Someone will get the advantage of reservation and some others will not as they have a different worshipping process. It cannot be so. That means reservation is to be done on the basis of profession. If a fisherman or a cobbler gets the privilege of reservation, it will be so because he is a fisherman or a cobbler by profession, not that he is a Hindu or a Muslim.”
first and foremost
perspective for reservation comes from the constitution of
Thus it is clear that the constitution provides enough justification for reservation for the economically and educationally backward classes.
for the actual
situation of Muslims, a careful observation of their status clearly
depth of their backwardness, though this varies from state to state.
socio-economic status of Muslims in
It is true that reservations cannot be the panacea for the ills gripping the Muslims, or for that matter any social group. Many other and more radical steps are needed for the welfare and development of those who are lagging behind. Moreover, political will and honesty are also needed. If they are not there, all facilities are going to leak out through the loopholes in the law.
Yet another perspective for reservation comes from Justice Ranganath Mishra commission’s report. In 2004, this national commission under Justice Ranganath Mishra was constituted to identify the socially and economically backward people among the religious and linguistic minorities. The commission was asked to recommend on the reservation and development issues in the fields of jobs and education for this portion of the Indian citizens. The commission submitted its report to the prime minister in 2007. After that, however, no action in this regard was coming forth. The Left repeatedly pressured the government to table the report in the parliament. It was tabled in December 2009, in the winter session of the parliament, only after a part of the report got leaked and was published in The Hindu daily.
The Mishra commission has made suggestions on many issues like education, job, administration and legislative system. Here we are not going into the details of this matter. As for the job aspect of the problem, the commission’s recommendations are in accordance with the already mentioned article 16(4) of the constitution. Two of the recommendations are as below. First, 15 per cent of the posts in every central and state government department must be reserved for the minorities --- 10 per cent for Muslims and 5 per cent for other minorities. If Muslim candidates are not found for these 10 per cent posts, these may be filled with candidates from other minority communities. In any case, it must not be done with candidates from the majority community. Secondly, in case there is an unavoidable judicial deadlock, the recommendation is that 8.4 per cent of the seats out of the total 27 per cent reserved for the OBCs must be kept aside for the minorities. This is because the minorities account for 8.4 per cent of the total population of other backward classes. This 8.4 per cent would be divided into two parts --- 6 per cent for Muslims and 2.4 per cent for other minorities.
An aspect is noteworthy here. In the third paragraph of the directive principles of state policy, only the backward part of Hindu population was considered in 1947-49 and recognised as the scheduled castes. Sikhs and Buddhists were included later. It was done clearly on a religious basis. Muslims, Christians and Parsees were not included in it. But if that was done on a religious consideration, how is reservation a secular process? The Mishra commission has justly recommended abolition of this paragraph in the directive principles, adding that the recognition of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes must have a secular basis. It means that the sections of the Muslims and other minorities having the same socio-cultural, educational and economic status as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, must get the benefits the latter are getting.
chief minister of
There is no doubt that the Left does not support religion based reservation. The constitution of the country reflects the same thinking. But the Left has been constantly waging struggles in and out of the parliament for the uplift of the backward classes and will continue to do so as a part of the fight for social justice. The Left Front government has already excluded the ‘creamy layers’ from the ambit of reservation --- precisely what Justice Mishra commission has suggested.
To our greatest surprise, however, extreme opposition to the Left’s striving in this regard is coming from those very people who till yesterday believed reservation to be the only requirement for the uplift of the minorities. The basic reason is that they are scared about their existence. The so-called movements they have been spearheading may get blunted. Quite recently, a traditional organisation of Muslims, led by incompetent leaders, suddenly came up with the war cry that “We want reservations for all Muslims.” But if the owners of Pataka Industries, Howrah Biri or Wipro start demanding reservation, it is going to be the height of absurdity. Regrettably, such people forget that a minimum common sense is required even if you blindly oppose something.
its part, the Left
Front government is committed to assist in the forward march of
Muslims. Its commitment is not limited to the sphere of jobs; it covers
basic and important question of expansion of modern scientific
entire process is integrally associated with the overall development of