(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 20, 2011
Minority Rights Convention Held in Azamgarh
AFTER the convention held in Delhi on December 4 on implementation of the Sachar committee and Rangnath Misra commission recommendations, a similar convention was held in the Shibli Academy Hall of Azamgarh on February 6. The convention was extremely well-attended by doctors, lawyers, professors, students, weavers and activists. People had come from Maunath Bhanjan, Sultanpur, and also from small towns in Azamgarh district. CPI(M) members worked extremely hard to make the convention, the first one of its kind in this area, a success.
Professor Salman Sultan of Shibli College presided over the convention. He welcomed all the participants and emphasised the importance of mobilising for equal citizenship rights by the minority community.
Subhashini Ali then moved a resolution demanding the release of all those Muslims who had been arrested in connection with the Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and Ajmer Sharif blasts. The resolution condemned the fact that even after members of various Hindutva groups have been arrested in connection with these blasts and after ‘Swami’ Aseemanand has recorded his confession before a magistrate, those arrested earlier have not even been released on bail . The resolution was welcomed and passed unanimously.
The first speaker was Haji Nisar, president of the UP Pasmanda Muslim Mohaz (Backward Muslims Front). His organisation has been in the forefront of the campaign for reservation for Dalit Muslims in Eastern UP. He spoke about the injustices suffered by dalit and backward Muslims at the hands not only of the government but also from upper castes within the community. He was also very critical of so-called ‘secular’ parties who took advantage of the Muslims’ votes but did not do anything to remove the many injustices that they suffered. Haji Nisar also spoke of the tremendous awakening among the poorest sections of Muslims and said that they were no longer prepared to be hoodwinked.
Dr Prasenjit Bose, convenor of the Research Unit of the CPI(M), made an impressive speech in which he completely exposed the reality behind the claims being made by the central government about measures it was taking to implement the Sachar committee recommendations. He said that government and the Planning Commission had rejected the CPI(M) proposal for a minority sub-plan on the lines of the SC and ST sub-plans. This gave them the freedom to make extremely paltry allocations for minority development. While the proportion of the minorities in the total population was more than 18 per cent, the budgetary allocations made for their ‘welfare and development’ in the last five years were to the tune of 0.23 to 0.32 per cent only. He explained that out of every 100 rupees spent by the government of India, just 23 to 32 paise were spent on the development and welfare of 18 per cent of the population that had been recognised as being the most in need of budgetary support. Prasenjit also reminded the audience that, as far as the Rangnath commission report was concerned, the government had not even deigned to make a statement on the acceptance of its recommendations. He also said that as the 12th five-year plan was now being finalised, it was essential for all parties interested in minority welfare to press for the inclusion of a minorities sub-plan in the main plan.
Dr Prasenjit Bose said emphatically that the battle for minority rights had to go hand-in-hand with the battle for secularism and that this was a dual struggle that the entire democratic movement should actively participate in.
The chief guest of the convention was Dr Abdus Sattar, minister for madarsa education and minority welfare in the West Bengal. He began his address by saying that while the Sachar committee report was an extremely important document, it had some shortcomings in that it did not give a complete picture of the situation. For example, when it gave data on the employment of Muslims in government jobs in West Bengal, it did not include in its estimation the thousands of Madarsa teachers, who enjoy government scales and benefits, and the very large number of Muslims among the government school teachers. The report also did not speak about land ownership among the Muslims and, therefore, the tremendous impact of the sweeping land reforms carried out in the state was not recorded either. He added, however, that his government appreciated the criticisms of its shortcomings contained in the report and had made a very sincere effort to remedy these. He said that a review should be conducted, preferably by Justice Sachar himself, of the situation in the country four years after the publication of his report. Whatever had been done by the central and state government should be scrutinised in the light of the report’s recommendations.
As far as his government was concerned, Sattar said it had taken the recommendations very seriously. Regarding the utilisation of central funds for district development, scholarships and loan disbursement, he said that the Ministry of Minority Affairs itself had commended their record as being the best in the country. But the problem was not of disbursement but of paucity of the funds being made available by the central government. It was not possible to do much with niggardly handouts. To illustrate his point, he said that the central government spends a total of Rs 50 crore on madarsa education in the entire country whereas his government spent more than 600 crores in the last year.
According to Sattar, literacy rates among the Muslims of Bengal had been very low for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, this was changing very rapidly. He said that in the last year, enrolment of Muslim children in the primary classes was 31 per cent of the total, in the Madhyamik it was about 20 per cent. This meant that, in the years to come, Muslims would be studying at every level in numbers commensurate with their total population. He also said that in the last year nearly 10 per cent of medical graduates were Muslims. The oldest madarsa in the country, Alia Madarsa, has now been given the status of a university and its various faculties and departments are functioning well. A centre of the AMU has also been opened in Murshidabad on the land made available by the state government.
Coming to the Rangnath commission report, Sattar said it was a matter of pride for his government that it had taken the issue of OBC-Muslim reservation so seriously. The government has reserved 10 per cent of all state government jobs for the Muslim OBCs and the recruitment process has started. A commission to identify the OBC communities was set up that completed its task in record time. After they were notified, issuing of certificates was simplified and several lakhs of certificates have been issued.
The convention ended with the passing of the two resolutions on implementation of Sachar committee and Rangnath Misra commission recommendations that had been earlier passed in Delhi.
The convention was widely covered by the Hindi and Urdu press and also by the electronic media. Many of those who attended spoke to the organisers expressing their appreciation of the speeches. A question asked by many was: If a state government can take serious steps to increase the access to educational and employment opportunities for the minorities and if it can implement the Rangnath Misra recommendation of 10 per cent reservation for OBC Muslims, why is the central government dragging its feet on all these issues and why have other state governments done so little?