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
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
"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,
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
"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
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
"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."