Say no to Muslim quota

Magh Amawasya, Kaliyug Varsha 5111

By Anuradh Dutt

While politicians persist with playing divisive games, trying to create and nurture vote-banks on the basis of birth identity, judicial intervention has often served to put necessary checks on their myopic plans to fragment the electorate for their own ends. To cite an instance, the Supreme Court ruling in 1992, placing a 50 per cent ceiling on reservations, managed somewhat to quell the raging caste feud, ignited by VP Singh’s implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations in August 1990. The proviso, stipulating 27.5 per cent reservation for ‘Other Backward Classes’ and numerically fewer most backward classes, had fractured both the polity and students’ fraternity, with some upper caste youths opting publicly to end their own lives, in order to vent their frustration.

Amid such frenzy, a fact that was conveniently overlooked was that Manusmriti, the 2nd-4th century AD text, which turned differences in vocation into a hereditary system for classifying people, never identified OBCs and MBCs as separate categories. These are entirely Mandal’s contribution to the process of caste-making. In the present time, the Mandal report has served as the unquestioned authority on matters of caste. Hence, OBCs, even though an ill-defined category, have become the most aggressive proponents and beneficiaries of quotas in Government jobs and educational institutes. Eyeing minority voters, some parties have been trying since long to induct Muslims into the OBC and scheduled caste segments, so as to lure them with the bait of reservations. This move is totally in contravention of Islam, which is based on the premise of equality of all men and women, whose allegiance is to god. Provisions for caste and quotas go against the spirit of Islam. Hindus who convert to Islam irrevocably shed the baggage of birth.

This, however, has not dissuaded parties, which thrive on minorityism, from invoking the ghosts of the past. The Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh had provided four per cent reservations for backward Muslims in jobs and educational institutions. Setting a healthy precedent, a seven-judge Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has revoked this State law — the AP Reservation in Favour of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007 — on the grounds that it is unsustainable. It was a 5-2 majority ruling. The Bench dismissed as ‘unscientific’ the findings of the AP Backward Classes Commission, propping up the law. These apparently were based on Mandal’s criteria for determining “Socially Economic Backward Classes” among non-Hindus. Four of the judges stated that the law, being religion-specific, could encourage conversions. It was unsustainable for this reason. Further, the commission’s determination of Muslim backwardness was not tenable.

The State Government is now planning to appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the communist-ruling regime in West Bengal, in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections, has devised its own formula for wooing Muslim voters: A 10 per cent quota in jobs for the community. Article 16(4) of the Constitution, that refers to the socially and educationally back ward category, has been invoked to justify such reservations. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has made it a point to clarify that this quota is not on the basis of religion. If it is indeed so, one wonders why Muslims alone are intended to be recipients of such largesse. Why not backward Hindus too? This is because, says the Chief Minister, Muslims constitute 25 per cent of the State’s population! Those youths, whose parents’ income is below Rs 37,000 a month, would be eligible under the new creamy layer proviso.

Communists, whose egalitarian creed does not allow for the iniquities of caste and class, are evidently willing to use the Mandal formula to augment their own fortunes. It is really George Orwell’s Animal Farm being revisited, with ideology remaining in the realm of thought as real politik takes over. Muslims, on their part, must do serious soul-searching. The primary question that confronts them is whether their religion sanctions such privileges. Otherwise unbending on their personal laws, especially in the areas of gender and inter-faith relations, are they willing to grab the quotas being dangled before them? Would such acquiescence be in conformance with Islamic law? They need to remember that their strident opposition to the restoration of usurped Hindu pilgrimages and total ban on cow slaughter has been on supposedly religious grounds. The stalemate over building the Ram mandir in Ayodhya at the erstwhile site of the Babri Masjid owes to the community’s intransigence regarding the issue. But their apparent willingness to avail of reservations on the basis of backwardness — a criterion alien to Islam and even Manusmriti — betrays duplicity.

Daily Pioneer

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