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Why quota only for OBCs, ask Indian Muslims

Friday December 02, 2011 07:53:14 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Many Indian Muslims Friday said the government should consider reservations for the community as a whole instead of just the backward classes among them. Some, however, felt it would be a step forward in helping marginalised Muslims.

Their reactions came after union minister Salman Khurshid said the government was considering a share for Muslims in the 27 percent quota in government jobs and educational institutions for other backward classes (OBCs).

Zafaryab Jilani, a leading Uttar Pradesh lawyer on Muslim affairs, said, "What is Khurshid talking about? As far as reservation for backward Muslims is concerned, they were already getting that facility under the OBC category since the implementation of the Mandal Commission."

In fact, sceptics see the proposal as a strategy to woo Muslims ahead of next year's assembly polls in five states, particularly in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

"Coming ahead of the polls, it seems they are not serious about it and it is just a tactic," Maulana Sayeed Athar Ali, president of the All India Ulema Association, told IANS in Mumbai.

Since 2004, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has formed two panels to look into the social, economic and educational status of the nearly 140 million Muslims in India -- home to the world's third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan.

The Sachar committee, appointed in 2005, revealed the poor development indices of Muslims and recommended an equal opportunity commission and better educational facilities.

The Ranganath Misra Commission report recommended 10 percent reservation for all Muslims in jobs, educational and welfare schemes and five percent for other minorities in India.

Many therefore said the community as a whole should benefit from quotas.

"In our community, we do not discriminate against people. If they are looking forward to reservations, then they should do it for all Muslims. Moreover, 85 percent Muslims in Maharashtra are backward, why not do something for the upliftment of all of them?"

In India's only Muslim-dominated state, Jammu and Kashmir, however, people have been more welcoming.

"Muslims definitely need some protection to get jobs in the government or compete for the civil services. It is a good proposal but again the identification of who is a backward Muslim should be done carefully," said Suhail Mir, a local lawyer.

"It is long overdue. You have empirical evidence to suggest Muslims are underrepresented in government jobs and have not had the same educational opportunities, especially the backward among them. I think it is in the larger interest of the nation to have equal representation of Muslims so that they don't feel delineated from the mainstream," Sabiya Kirmani, a Kashmiri student in Delhi, said.

Former Davis Cupper Akhtar Ali told IANS in Kolkata: "We are Indians first, but if some community is not doing well it is the duty of the state to help. The Muslim community needs help and with measures like this, we can go miles forward in 10 years."

In Bihar, where 16 percent of the population is Muslim, opinion is divided.

"It is an election stunt. There is a move to divert attention from the countrywide protest against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail. If the central government is serious about reservation to backward Muslims, it should bring a proposal in parliament," said Ali Anwar, a Janata Dal-United MP.

Former Rajya Sabha member Ezaj Ali, known to champion the cause of Dalit Muslims, said the proposal was welcome, but it would benefit only backward Muslims in central government jobs. The centre must consider reservations for Dalit Muslims instead, he said.

"Backward Muslims will get some benefit from it, but all Muslims will not. The central government should implement the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra and Sachar committee reports. Why is the centre sitting over it?" asked Maulana Anishur Rahman Qasmi, the administrator of Patna-based Muslim organisation Imarat Shariah.

In Karnataka, Sheema Mohsin, national convenor (women's wing) of the Welfare Party of India, said: "Reservation per se won't do as it would amount to appeasement of minorities and smacks of votebank politics.

"The government will also have to define criteria for determining backwardness of Muslims as most in the community would be in that category from social, economic and educational parameters."





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