Reservations for Muslims: Good politics or good sense?

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Daredevil, Sep 27, 2011.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

    Apr 5, 2009
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    Reservations for Muslims: Good politics or good sense?

    Sep 27, 2011

    By Avirook Sen

    As Narendra Modi broke his fast last week, the UPA government broke the news that it intended introducing quotas for Muslims in jobs and education. But Minority Affairs minister Salman Khurshid’s announcement had less to do with Gujarat or Modi than it did with Uttar Pradesh and Mayawati.

    The day before the announcement, the UP chief minister had written to the Centre demanding reservations for Muslims. The Uttar Pradesh elections are around the corner. About every fifth voter in the state is a Muslim. I do not think any further elaboration on what motives may have been at play is required.

    Affirmative action is a sensitive issue to begin with — the Mandal agitation turned a section of India insane. A film (Aarakshan) released two decades later evoked reactions filled with leftover indignation. Reservation is tricky territory at best, but when religion is added to the mix, there’s a distinct possibility of straying into the province of danger.

    So far, reservations along religious lines have been implemented in various states, gingerly, and never without a fight. In Andhra Pradesh, whose model the Centre wants to follow, reservations for “socially and educationally backward classes” of Muslims was first quashed by the High Court. The Supreme Court offered interim relief last year allowing four per cent reservations within the Other Backward Castes (OBC) quota. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have reservations for Muslims in a limited way, as well.

    Every development-related survey shows that Muslims earn less, are less educated and are under-represented in government and administration relative to Hindus in India. And a quota for the community seems to be a reasonable way to bridge the gap. In 2007, the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission recommended exactly that: a 15 percent quota in education and jobs for religious minorities, two thirds of which would go to Muslims. It also suggested the deletion of the para in the Constitutional order of 1950 that excludes minorities, and making the scheduled caste net “fully religion-neutral”.

    However, by the time it was tabled in Parliament in 2009, the report had already become controversial. The BJP opposed the idea “tooth and nail,” in Murli Manohar Joshi’s words, others said the proposal was “anti-national”. Even the Congress had doubts about its implementation. Thus far, no state has implemented its recommendations either, including the Mayawati government.

    A history of debate

    The arguments against positive discrimination on the basis of religion have a sizeable number of endorsers. In a Seminar article, political scientist Zoya Hasan summed up the three arguments advanced: one, it is incompatible with secularism; two, it undermines national unity; and three, in the case of Muslims, caste doesn’t exist in theory, and therefore there is no basis for caste-based reservations.

    The first two arguments have been made over again in the affirmative action debate that has been alive for more than a century in India. In the 1870s, Jyotirao Phule, through his Satyashodak Sangh, lobbied the British for policies that promoted the education of the Shudras. By the 1900s, several princely states had reservations in place.

    Before the adoption of the Constitution, the issue was broader than just education and jobs. It was about giving these communities a stake in public life. The idea of separate electorates for lower castes and Muslims, for example, were created around the idea of representation—the fundamental element of equality.

    The ‘secularism’ and ‘national unity’ arguments were made even then. Mahatma Gandhi went on a fast opposing the idea of a separate electorate for untouchables, a group he championed all his life. Writing to the secretary of state for India in 1932, just as he was about to go on his fast, he said: “A separate electorate for the Depressed Classes [untouchables] is harmful for them and for Hindusim… So far as Hinduism is concerned, separate electorates would simply vivisect and disrupt it.”

    But Gandhi would later give in to BR Ambedkar, agreeing that there would be reserved seats for the Depressed Classes extendable every 10 years (Gandhi wanted “Five or my life”, but Ambedkar insisted on ten.) The quotas for parliamentary seats we have today have their roots in these negotiations.

    Religion-based positive discrimination is another story. During the Constituent Assembly debates (1946-49), a section of Muslims wanted to retain the separate electorates put in place by the British. But they had to deal with Sardar Patel, who declared, “Those who want that kind of thing have a place in Pakistan, not here.” Patel’s view was that any such move would sow the “seeds of disruption,” and divide the country.

    There was nuanced support for Patel’s position within the Muslim community as well. Begum Aizaz Rasul, for example, felt that a separate electorate would be “a self-destructive weapon which separates the minorities from the majority for all time.”

    Of caste and ‘Hindu’ religions

    While the first two claims about secularism and national unity have their strengths, the third argument against reservations for Muslims — that they have somehow escaped the caste system – is plainly false. There is a clear three-tier caste system in place: the Ashrafs are the upper castes, the Ajlafs are lower caste shudras and the Arzals are dalits, or historically, the outcasts. Every demographic survey — including the Sachar Commission report on minorities — spells this out, and points to the fact that an overwhelming majority of Muslims (in the range of 75-90 percent) fall under the latter two categories.

    Spokesmen for a number of Muslim organisations have also observed that caste is neither against Islam nor un-Islamic. And Rajya Sabha MP, Ali Anwar, could not have been clearer when he said: “Hum shudar hain, shudar. Bharat ke moolnivasi hain. Baad mein musalman hain.” (We are shudras first, indigenous to India. We are Muslims later.)

    The Mandal agitation renewed caste-consciousness among Muslims. Through the Pasmanda Movement, of which Ali Anwar is a leader, they have lobbied to secure a better deal than the mere classification of some groups under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. According to Muslims in favour of reservations, this provision is disproportionately inadequate since lower caste Muslims are excluded from the 15 percent reservation meant for the Scheduled Castes by the Constitution. (According to a 1950 order, converts must give up their caste status.)

    But why then do backward communities among Sikhs and Buddhists enjoy the same treatment as lower caste Hindus? These religions reject the caste system as well, but were brought into the quota system on demanding reservation for their underprivileged sections.

    One answer lies in the Indian Constitution: it specifies that any reference to Hindus also includes Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. In other words, any faith whose origins are rooted in India.

    This is a tricky situation, not just for the ‘foreign’ religions — Christianity and Islam — that are left out, but even those within the supposed Hindu fold. ‘Inclusion’ in this grand view that Hinduism rises to embrace and assimilate people from all other faiths has its consequences. In practice, it erodes the identity of smaller groups.

    This can happen in the strangest ways. In 1966, the Satsangis (followers of Swaminarayan, who anointed himself the Supreme God) went to court saying they could not come under the purview of an Act that stipulated that all temples had to be open for entry to Harijans or untouchables. Their religion was distinct from Hinduism, they argued, so laws that applied to Hindu temples could not cover them. If they wished to keep Harijans out, they should be allowed to do so.

    The Supreme Court rejected the claim and, in effect, included the Satsangis in the Hindu fold. Their argument: Hinduism defied easy definition and was a “way of life”.

    The Mishra Commission suggested an alternative in case a sweeping 10 percent quota for Muslims (plus another five percent for other religious minorities) could not be implemented. Reuters.
    The ‘way of life’ claim can also be used to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda, as it did in the Supreme Court’s ‘Hindutva judgement’ of 1996. While determining whether Hindu nationalist politicians—Bal Thackeray, Manohar Joshi and then mayor of Bombay Ramesh Prabhoo among them — had incited religious hatred while seeking votes, it said Hindusim and Hindutva were “a way of life of the Indian people and are not merely confined to describe persons practicing the Hindu religion as faith.”

    Justice JS Verma, who made these observations, had severely censured the politicians, but the Hindu right went to town with the judgement. The BJP even included it in its 1999 manifesto. In effect, Verma had endorsed the BJP-Sangh Parivar position that everyone who was Indian was a Hindu.

    If you flip that argument around to reservations, the same principle applies. It would mean the Indian Muslim asking for benefits based on the Hindu caste system would have to accept that they’re ‘Hindu.’ A claim that would lead inevitably to complaints that minorities claim to be one with the Hindus when expedient and separate at other times.

    Muslim reservations today

    The current debate over reservations centres not on representation, but more narrowly on government jobs and seats in government-funded educational institutions. The Sachar Committee report on minorities may have described their condition as worse than Dalits, but Muslims today have to share the 27 percent OBC Hindus — since backward sections of religious minorities are classified under the OBC category. The 234 OBCs listed in UP includes, for instance, the Momins, the Mirasis and Muslim Kayasths—the last category clearly indicating that caste and Islam aren’t mutually exclusive in India. In most states, therefore, without a specific sub-quota for Muslims – of the kind in place in Andhra Pradesh — there are no guarantees they will actually receive any benefits.

    The Mishra Commission suggested an alternative in case a sweeping 10 percent quota for Muslims (plus another five percent for other religious minorities) could not be implemented. Along the lines of Mandal, the Commission proposed the creation of a proportional quota within the OBC quota. Nationwide, of the 27 percent reserved for OBCs, six percent should be exclusively set aside for backward Muslims, and 2.4 percent for those from other religious groups.

    However, the report also recommended that these numbers be adjusted according to their proportional share of population. Were this to be implemented in Uttar Pradesh, for example, the numbers would shift substantially in favour of Muslims — they are 18 percent of the population there, and five percent more than the national average.

    Mayawati, therefore, has sound reasons for not implementing the Mishra Commission’s recommendations. A quota within quota for backward Muslims would mean fewer jobs for her lower caste Hindu constituents. Hence her demand for a separate quota for Muslims.

    However, extending privileges to lower caste Muslims at the cost of Mayawati’s vote bank works well for the UPA. A good reason why it too has ignored the Mishra Commission suggestions. It’s proposing the quota-within-quota Andhra model which already has the endorsement of the Supreme Court. Implementation will merely require fixing a percentage. And since a huge majority of Muslims can be classified as backward, it scores points with the community at the national level.

    This proposal, however, is easier made than done. The reporting of caste among Muslims is inconsistent at best. In the South, for instance, Muslims are far less aware of their pre-conversion caste.Even if we do get that completely accurate survey, there are many within the community who worry that reservations will create problems for the Indian Muslim rather than resolve them.

    As one writer put it: “It will only end up providing another dimension to the already existing divisions within the community. Aren’t schisms based on Shi’a-Sunni, Deobandi, Barelwi, Ahl-i-Hadith, Jamaat-i-Islami etc, enough that we are now seeking to create categories like ‘dalit Muslim’ and ‘forward caste Muslim’?”

    By the end of the Constituent Assembly debates, Muslim leaders generally accepted the Begum Aizaz Rasul’s view that reservations would work against Indian Muslims. But the formula for a safeguard also emerged. The safety of the Muslims lay not in reservations, said Naziruddin Ahmad, but in ‘having a decisive voice in the elections.’ In many constituencies, they were too numerous to be ignored, and could — if they stayed united — decide the fate of elections. The now familiar clamour for the Muslim vote among political parties in states like Uttar Pradesh would surely please the anti-reservation Begum.

    The more things change, the arguments remain the same. The Indian Muslim is exactly where he was 60-odd years ago: still hanging on his vote, of course.
    panduranghari, maomao and A.V. like this.
  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    Effin assholes.. reservation on communal lines by "secular brigade"!!
    Godless-Kafir and Zebra like this.
  4. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

    Feb 16, 2009
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    Moscow, russia
    Its bad politics and bad sense with bad intentions .

    A country who believes in equality and freedom of speech should have no reservations except for the disabled
  5. Godless-Kafir

    Godless-Kafir DFI Buddha Senior Member

    Aug 21, 2010
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    As long as there is no reservation on Economical line and to uplift the poor its going to be communal.

    In my collage an rich kid who apparently belonged to the lower cast got free scientific calculator and lower fees, while financially poorer kids got nothing! If that was not mad what is?
    panduranghari likes this.
  6. Dovah

    Dovah Untermensch Moderator

    May 23, 2011
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    Last ditch effort.
  7. Zebra

    Zebra Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 18, 2011
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    I would like to add one more with the disabled , reservations for widows - of those soldiers , who lost their lives during war .
    Only these two should get reservations , no one else .
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2011
    Ankit Purohit and maomao like this.
  8. Galaxy

    Galaxy Elite Member Elite Member

    Aug 27, 2011
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    bad politics
    bad intention
    bad strategy
    bad policy
    bad bad bad
  9. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

    Feb 19, 2009
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    Land of the GODS - "Dev Bhomi".
    reservations in any form are bad, it is because we start giving out concessions like these that we start to rot the system and then we wonder why the end results are so bad. do away with all types of reservations, be those what-so-ever.

    my only fear is with number of government jobs reducing, the government will try to enforce the reservations in the private sector as well, what a pity that would be!
    panduranghari and mki like this.
  10. maomao

    maomao Veteran Hunter of Maleecha Senior Member

    Apr 7, 2010
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    Squash whole quota system and give all the reservation to the poor irrespective of thier caste or religious identity!! If needed divide reserved seats among extremely poor of various communities!
  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Reservation was essential when we got Independence so as to bring all on some sort of a level playing field.

    Then politics came in .

    Then politician realised what a potent weapon it is to allow them to continue keeping their seat warm.

    Now, they have got addicted to the seat as also the weapon!

    They require their dose or else they will wither and die!
    panduranghari and mki like this.
  12. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

    Mar 10, 2009
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    EST, USA
    Intentions are bad, no doubt.

    However, why not institute affirmative action based on economic status? Provide scholarships to the poor and there is nothing wrong in making sure that these scholarships do not reach people of only one religion. Target selection based on a uniform distribution from among the poor is the best way to go.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  13. mayfair

    mayfair Elite Member Elite Member

    Feb 26, 2010
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    I will only echo what fellow members have articulated so well- affirmative action is welcome and should be based on economics not communal affiliations.
  14. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

    Jul 2, 2010
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    ‘Give 10% reservation to Muslims’ - The Times of India
  15. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

    Mar 31, 2010
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    Bangalore, India
    /\/\/\ Down with reservations. There should be no reservations at all, not for anyone.

    The physically disabled, widows of armed forces, economically weaker sections should be helped financially by the government to achieve education and chart out their life. Once education is imparted, they can take it from there.
    panduranghari likes this.
  16. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

    Oct 15, 2011
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    Hmm...even those should be opposed IMHO. For eg in engineering should one's mathematical ability be important or not ? In my native place, an ex-serviceman's daughter got admission on that basis in electrical branch in NIT and could not complete the course. Is that not a waste of a valuable seat in a NIT ?

    Karnataka has one of the highest percentage of reservation in professional education that includes poor Brahmins, Muslims, Christians, children of ex-servicement, children of Kannadigas settled outside Karnataka, etc - you name it and they have a category!

    Time has now come regardless of caste and faith for reservation to be there for all poor Hindus/Muslims/Christians etc
  17. Ankit Purohit

    Ankit Purohit Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 20, 2012
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    Super Like
  18. natarajan

    natarajan Senior Member Senior Member

    Jul 28, 2009
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    I would like politician get medical treatment from these people who get through with reservation ,lets see what the netas say ? Let them give reservation when comes to their personal.

    This is a good read from azim premji who is also from minority

    Wipro chairman Mr. Azim prem ji's comment on reservation: Good on....

    I think we should have job reservations in all the fields. I completely support the PM and all the politicians for promoting this. Let's start the reservation with our cricket team. We should have 10 percent reservation for Muslims. 30 percent for OBC, SC /ST like that. Cricket rules should be modified accordingly. The boundary circle should be reduced for an SC/ST player. The four hit by an OBC player should be considered as a six and a six hit by a OBC player should be counted as 8 runs. An OBC player scoring 60 runs should be declared as a century. We should influence ICC and make rules so that the pace bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar should not bowl fast balls to our OBC player. Bowlers should bowl maximum speed of 80 kilometer per hour to an OBC player. Any delivery above this speed should be made illegal.

    Also we should have reservation in Olympics. In the 100 meters race, an OBC player should be given a gold medal if he runs 80 meters.

    There can be reservation in Government jobs also. Let's recruit SC/ST and OBC pilots for aircrafts which are carrying the ministers and politicians (that can really help the country.. )

    Ensure that only SC/ST and OBC doctors do the operations for the ministers and other politicians. (Another way of saving the country..)

    Let's be creative and think of ways and means to guide INDIA forward...

    Let's show the world that INDIA is a GREAT country. Let's be proud of being an INDIAN..

    Reservations are given and standards are reduced to make bigger things reach the lower strata.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012

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