Since the government has done away with the minority status of the AMU (Aligarh Muslim University), a debate has set in for and against the minority character and reservations. Recently when I attended a meeting at the Constitution Club, Delhi by some, the so-called Muslim leaders, like Mohammed Adeeb, Meem Afzal (Congress spokesperson), Haseen Poonawala etc so very generously voicing their lip-service concerning the minority character of AMU, it reminded me of the saying that way to hell is paved with good intentions! It's only a ghetto mindset that talks like this.
Fact remains and history has proved it that the minority character and reservations on communal lines are not in the interest of national unity and integrity as it might start a chain reaction amongst the same religious groups as well. The ostrich mentality of reservations or minority status of some universities will not help Muslims but open Pandora’s box. They have to perform or perish!
Those vying for the minority status of AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia should remember what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, a Congressman and not a lesser lover of minorities, had stated while addressing on democratization in an important session of the Constituent Assembly on May 26, 1949: "If you seek to give safeguards to a minority, you isolate it... Maybe, you protect it to a slight extent but at what cost - at the cost of isolating and keeping it away from the main current."
Dr Zakir Hussain founded Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920. He could have made it a minority institution if he wanted to. But he did not want the institution to be linked with any one community.
It would be worth examining also as to what the other founding fathers say about minority character and reservations. While a vote was sought for the charter of providing political safeguards to the minorities according to articles 292 and 294 of the 1949 draft constitution, five leaders (all Muslims) out of seven, namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hussainbhoy Laljee and Tajammul Hussain had voted against it. Interestingly, Sardar Patel vehemently supported the charter.
KR Malkani, former RSS think tank, wrote in his treatise on Indian Muslims, The Politics Of Ayodhya And Hindu-Muslim Relations that according to the United Nations, the group that's identified as a minority is one that by religion, language, ethnicity or culture constitutes less than 10 percent of the population of a state. As per this statute, the Muslims were a minority decades ago but now they are not. In fact, they are the second majority.
Malkani also states that nowhere in the 52-odd Muslim countries or, for that matter, anywhere in the world where Muslims are a majority, do non-Muslims have the privileges, protection and rights that India offers to the minorities. As a matter of fact, Maulana Azad did not like the majority-minority syndrome and hence called Muslims as the second majority.
Be it Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Muslim Dalits or other so-called minorities (minorities and majority in it self is a divisive and duping cliche) for that matter, reservations are a menace for the entire system. On the otherwise secular and composite fabric of India, reservations are a thorn in the neck.
Rather than extending the begging bowl for quota, Muslims must tell the government to open more schools and a system for general uplift in their areas than police stations. Instead of fighting over smaller slices of a small pie of the national income, what is needed is the expansion of the national pie which would help everyone to get their rightful and bigger share. The oppressed and the marginalized people need expansion of opportunities rather than favours from the state.
As a law abiding Indian Muslim citizen, I feel that words such as reservation, minority, majority be deleted from the Indian Constitution in the context of quotas based on caste or religion. Umpteen reservations including the minorities, SC/ST, Kashmiri migrants and army personnel have already affected the consideration for going in for merit.
The problem with this kind of lop-sided minority character and reservation is that the real beneficiaries of reservation may be the economically well-off "backward community" members who generation after generation reap the benefits at the expense of the real needy from the general sections who, actually, are becoming the “minority” as has been seen in the case of the 22.5 percent quotas in the institutions of higher education like the IIMs, IITs etc. The government needs to put a stop to such abuses. So many reserved places lie unfilled and the ineligible poor general category suffers.
I want the minorities to have an honourable place by having to stop looking at charity in the form of quota and accept the challenge of a competitive life. So far as the Muslim community is concerned, the reservations' process will be wrought with imperfections as the community is divided into umpteen castes and sub-castes, a system that has percolated in them through their Hindu neighbourhoods.
Muslims have four major caste divisions, namely - Ashraf at the top (Syed, Sheikh, Mughal and Pathan), Atraj, the second rung (Rajput, Tyagi, Thakur, Jaat etc), Azrab, the third rung (Julahe, Kunjre, Darzi, Mirasi, Qasab, Naiee, Mahigir etc), and Azlab, at the lowest rung (Halalkhor, Chamar, Lalbezi etc). My suggestion is that financial aid be granted on the basis of performance instead of seat reservation. If Muslims will compete, participate and become go-getters, India will prosper.
Battered by the populist rhetoric and provocative militancy of its myopic all ill-educated clerics and shallow youths, the nation’s cultured and high potential minority stands at cross roads. Afflicted by utter educational backwardness, administrative apathy and political expediency, the Muslim community in India is caught in the asphyxiating tweezers-grip owing to their opportunistic leaders both inside the Parliament and outside it crying hoarse just indulging in pernicious vote-bank manipulation and subjecting and finally leaving poor Muslims to the mercy of God.
These so-called Muslim representatives have outright ruined their followers emotionally, economically, socially and educationally. Such leaders are not seriously interested in dealing with the main problems of the community. Muslim leaders and petty politicians are becoming richer day by day while the people they represent, are going down the poverty line languishing in their ghettos. More often than not, they are interested in feathering their own nests and are indulging in petty mindedness characterized by an extremely narrow and irresponsible outlook completely out of tune with the existing reality.
It is time that we Indians give up this ghettoized minority-majority mindset. Voices of reason demand that educational standards and qualifications should be uniform, whatever the language, religion or region. lll
(A vigilant citizen of India, commentator on social and educational issues and grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first Minister of Education)