People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 50

December 12, 2010

National Convention on Muslim Rights


Albeena Shakil &

Roshan Kishore


A national convention on Muslim rights was held on December 4, 2010 at Mavlankar Hall, New Delhi. It was organised jointly by the Democratic Forum for National Integration (Kolkata), Muslim Intelligentsia Forum (Delhi) and Awaaz (Hyderabad). The convention had two sessions, the first one on the implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations and the second one on four years after the Sachar Committee report. Speakers in the convention included several eminent and distinguished experts, parliamentarians and activists who, over the course of over four hours, contributed to a vibrant discussion. The convention began with an enchanting musical rendition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry by vocalist Vidya Shah.





Subhashini Ali, former MP, invited the panellists of the session on the Ranganath Mishra report to the dais. Dr Anwar Pasha, faculty JNU, chaired the session and provided a brief overview of the historic importance of the Ranganath Mishra report and the need for its implementation. 


Moinul Hasan (MP, Rajya Sabha) initiated the discussion by emphasising the need for taking decisive steps for redressing the backwardness of Muslims for the cause of strengthening democracy in the country. He called for rebuffing the approach wherein any measure directed towards the upliftment of Muslims is viewed as appeasement. He said that the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra had submitted its report to the government on May 10, 2007. However, it was tabled in parliament only in December 2009, that too without any action taken report. Among other significant recommendations, the commission called for providing 10 per cent reservations for socially and educationally backward Muslims in education and jobs and also for removing the discrimination on the basis of religion in the reservation for the Scheduled Castes. It also recommended reservations for all religious minorities, including Hindus in the union territory of Lakshadweep, and the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Punjab. However, the union government seems to have developed cold feet over the commission’s recommendations. In reply to a question in July 2010, the minority affairs ministry has informed the parliament that the report is still ‘under examination’. He called for an immediate correction of this approach and the need for its immediate implementation, especially in view of the positive developments in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal vis-a-vis ensuring reservations for backward Muslims in their states.  


K Rehman Khan (deputy chairman, Rajya Sabha) noted that all earlier government commissions dealt with the condition of ‘minorities’ as a whole, but the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission were notable because they had made specific recommendations for the Muslim minority. He elaborated on the case of Karnataka, where four per cent reservations for Muslims were instituted in 1993 after a state-wide census of one million families along 65 parameters of backwardness, when he headed the state’s Minorities Commission. He said that the exclusion of Muslim and Christian dalits from the SC list was difficult to accept. He also highlighted the dilemma regarding the Supreme Court ruling that the total percentage of reservations must not exceed 50 per cent. He called for a structured debate in parliament on the recommendations of the two reports and expressed his hope that it may be possible in the forthcoming budget session. He underscored that minority rights are inherent in the constitution and cannot be ignored.


Invoking the sacrifices made by Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Anisur Rehman Qasmi (member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board), expressed his disappointment over the historic discrimination entailed in the 1950 Presidential Order for Scheduled Castes. He said that the discrimination among the backward and weaker sections of different religions needs to be combated by forging unity of all people wanting justice. He said that it was unfair to place the burden of Muslim backwardness on the Muslim community. He insisted that this was an outcome of 60 years of silence and apathy by successive governments, with no major debate on the matter in the parliament. In a country that is already affected by Naxalism in 13 states, it would only be wise to discuss the Ranganath Mishra Commission report in parliament, and implement it without delay.


Ali Anwar Ansari (MP, Rajya Sabha) said that despite four attempts to demand a comprehensive discussion on the Ranganath Mishra Commission report in the Rajya Sabha, the efforts have not met with success. He shared that the report of the Ranganath Mishra Commission was finally tabled in parliament in December 2009, only subsequent to a media leak which led to a privilege issue. He said that as far as the development of the Muslims is concerned, the Sachar Committee provides the ‘diagnosis’, while the Ranganath Mishra Commission provides the ‘prescription’. Both reports along with previous reports of the Kaka Karlekar, Mungerilal, Gopal Singh and Mandal Commissions, prove the point that Muslims are not a monolith or homogenous community. The recognition of this differentiation within Muslims is central to any measure for the upliftment of Muslims in India. The continued exclusion of Muslims and Christians from the purview of the 1950s Presidential Order on Article 341 pertaining to reservations for the Scheduled castes needs to be removed. He emphasised the need for amending the constitution for removing the Supreme Court ceiling of 50 per cent on reservations and said that the centre needs to be pushed in this direction.


P S Krishnan (former member secretary, National Commission for Backward Classes) elaborated on the need for strengthening social justice in the country within the contours of SC, ST and OBC reservations. Citing the example of Andhra Pradesh, he said that four per cent reservation was granted to backward sections within the Muslim community, leaving out the dominant Syed community. He said that many Muslims felt that all Muslims must be covered under the purview of reservations. However, constitutional provisions for social justice allow for covering almost 80 per cent of the Muslim population of the country under reservations. He also emphasised the need for finding solutions for the poor among Muslims and the Hindu upper castes. He said that a social consensus must be forged to achieve some immediate gains from among the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations. This includes ensuring that state level lists of OBCs are revised to include Muslim OBCs and these in turn are included in the central list without delay. He said that one of the concerns regarding granting SC status to Muslim and Christian dalits was the prevailing apprehensions among Hindu dalits. Removing the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations could provide a possible solution in this regard.


Two eminent members from the audience also spoke at the end of this session. Abdus Sattar (minister of state, minority affairs and madrasah education, government of West Bengal) spelt out the need for a 15 per cent budgetary sub-plan for implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations which was being demanded by the West Bengal government since the time of the 11th Plan consultations. He shared details of the recent implementation of 10 per cent reservation for backward Muslims in jobs in West Bengal. The chief minister announced the government’s intent in this regard on  February 8, 2010. A process involving study of census reports since 1901, inspections by state OBC Commission in combination with survey was undertaken in the state. 53 Muslim communities were added to the OBC list, thereby bringing 1.72 crore Muslims, ie, over 85 per cent Muslim population under the purview of reservations. The process of obtaining OBC certificates has also been simplified. The government now intends to extend the same reservation in higher education as well as panchayat bodies. Abdus Sattar further elaborated upon the initiatives of the West Bengal government vis-avis minority development. Aliah University has been started in the state for Muslims. While a total of Rs 560 crores has been earmarked for madrasahs in West Bengal, the corresponding central government allocation is just Rs 50 crores for the entire country. The performance of the West Bengal Minorities Development Finance Commission (WBMDFC) is consistently the best in the country. He demanded that along with a debate in parliament, consultation must also be held by the union minority affairs minister with his state level counterparts for the effective implementation of the Sachar Committee report.


K T Jaleel (MLA, Kerala legislative assembly) stressed on the contribution made by the Left parties during the tenure of UPA-I, when two commissions were constituted to study and recommend measures for improving the condition of Muslims in India. The two reports have helped combat the fascist propaganda regarding appeasement of Muslim minorities. He spoke of the success of the decades old 12 per cent reservations for backward Muslims in Kerala.




Sehba Farooqui, AIDWA leader, invited the panellists on the dais for this session. The session was chaired by Zahiruddin Khan, managing editor, Siasat, Hyderabad, who provided a brief outline of the condition of the Muslim community in India. 


Mohammed Salim (chairperson, WBMDFC) initiated the discussion on how the Sachar Committee report had generated many hopes among the Muslims about systemic changes. However, the report which was tabled in parliament in 2006 has not even been discussed in the parliament till now. It was listed three times for discussion, but somehow, no discussion actually materialised on the report. Rather than a concrete ATR, a ‘Follow Up Action’ consisting mostly of the formation of more committees, task forces and inter-ministerial committees was presented by the then minority affairs minister before the parliament in August 2007. Since then the reality of the implementation of the Sachar Committee is that just 0.32 per cent of plan allocation of the budget is being spent on the development of all minorities of the country. This stands out in stark contrast to the demand for a 15 per cent budgetary sub-plan for the minorities. Even this meagre expenditure is being implemented through faulty policies like the MSDP, wherein, the benefit of the expenditure does not necessarily reach the concerned minorities. He blamed the notion of ‘minority appeasement’ that has pervaded public consciousness at the behest of the right wing parties over the last two decades for this situation. He noted the proactive role of the West Bengal and Kerala governments in creating regional centres of the Aligarh Muslim University in their states.  


Syeda Saiyidain Hameed (member, Planning Commission) praised the Sachar Committee report for elaborating on the condition of Muslims in the country and giving concrete suggestions and recommendations. She said that the government has started implementing the recommendations of the report and while many criticisms may be true, it is possible to see the glass as half full or as half empty. Only a few of the aspects relating to the Sachar Committee rReport are invested with the Planning Commission. Different ministries of the government are following up different aspects of the implementation of the report. She said that the ‘inclusive growth’ slogan of the government contained the scope for the benefit of all deprived people including the Muslim minority. She recalled that the West Bengal CM had made a demand for a 15 per cent budgetary sub-plan for the Muslim minority during the regional consultations held by the Planning Commission for the 11th Plan. She said the approach paper for the 12th Plan was now underway, and invited the organisers to make suggestions for a sub-plan or for ‘blocks’ as the unit for the implementation of the MSDP at this stage. She expressed solidarity with all grass root level activists of the country and said that while striving for the development of the Muslims, the question of Muslim women must also be kept in sight. She also suggested that the resolutions of the convention can include issues relating to the approach paper to the 12th Plan.


T K Hamza (former MP, Lok Sabha) from Kerala elaborated on the measures undertaken in his state with respect to the Sachar Committee report. A state level committee was formed by the government under the chairmanship of Paloli Mohammad Kutty. On  May 6t, 2008 the committee submitted its report and gave several state level recommendations. The recommendations pertain to general education, security, reservation, economic progress, efficiency and development and Wakf properties. As a result, several steps have been undertaken like spending Rs 178 crores on educational institutions, opening up of 136 training centres or ITIs, three coaching centres for IAS & IPS, formation of welfare board for madrasah education and pension for madrasah teachers, ten thousand new scholarships for Muslim girls, formation of a non-resident Keralites’ board, recognition of 41 higher secondary schools, granting of 300 acres of land for the formation of an off-campus centre of AMU etc. He expressed his solidarity with the efforts to intensify the struggle for the upliftment of the Muslims in the country.


M A A  Fatmi (ex-MoS, HRD ministry) narrated his experience in the HRD ministry, when he travelled across the country, of the deep penetration of communal ideas in the psyche of the administration. He said that combating communalism and changing the psyche of the people is essential for the proper implementation of the Sachar Committee report. He highlighted the discrepancy of a Muslim population of 14 per cent having only 5 per cent representation in the Lok Sabha. He also stressed on the importance of the role of the media. He elaborated on the findings and recommendations of the Fatmi Committee formed on education under his chairmanship. However, the scale of implementation of his report was highly inadequate with very meagre budgetary allocation. For instance, as against the requirement of Rs 500 crores for expanding higher and technical education in Urdu medium by opening five campuses of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, only about Rs 25-30 crores had been released by the UGC so far. Or, despite opening more Kasturba Balika Vidyalayas in minority concentrated districts, the admission of Muslim girls was still an uphill task. He stressed that the suggestion for reservation of Muslim students in Kendriya Vidyalayas must be taken up. His committee had recommended off-campus centres of AMU in five states. However, only West Bengal and Kerala governments have taken concrete steps in this regard. He called for intensifying the efforts for the advancement of the Muslim community and hoped that the Planning Commission would make adequate budgetary allocations for this purpose.


Two more members from the audience spoke at the end of this session. Anisur Rahman (panchayat and rural development minister of West Bengal) spoke about the steps being undertaken in his state to extend the scope of 10 per cent reservations for OBC Muslims to education as well as panchayat bodies. He also elaborated on other steps regarding madrasah education, housing schemes, construction of second Haj house, distribution of land pattas, women empowerment programme through SHGs, construction of hostels for Muslim boys and girls, and other steps targeted at the Muslim minority in the state.


Shafiqur Rahman Nabi, former minister, Bihar government, expressed solidarity with the efforts for the implementation of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission reports.



The convention ended with the passage of two resolutions on the implementation of the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission and Sachar Committee. Subhashini Ali proposed that the suggestion given by Syeda Hameed regarding the approach paper to the 12th Plan be included in the resolution on the Sachar Committee report. This amendment was accepted by all present.


The national convention for Muslim rights demanded that:

·        The union government stop dragging its feet over the Ranganath Mishra Commission report and implement 10 per cent reservation for socially and educationally backward Muslims without delay.

·        Extending the benefits of reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes among the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists to their counterparts among the Muslims and the Christians.

·        The union government initiate the process for a constitutional amendment to provide reservation above 50 per cent.

·        Initiate a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations including a full debate in parliament.

·        The union government adopt more firm and decisive policies for the advancement of the Muslim minority, including, a minority sub-plan without delay.


Several people from different walks of life as well as from across the country participated in the convention. Eminent members of the audience included Prakash Karat, general secretary, CPI (M), Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha MP, former MPs Hannan Mollah and Nilotpal Basu, several MLAs and state level ministers, university teachers, media persons and others. The participation of Muslim youth in the convention was notable.