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Backward class Muslims & reservation – does end justify means?
By N. Jamal Ansari, Aligarh

Muslim politics is going to turn upside down, if the claims of some individuals and organizations are to be believed. In a recent statement Dr Ejaz Ali, National convener of All India Backward class Muslim Morcha declared that, ‘if the government of Uttar Pradesh concede the demand of backward class Muslims for reservation under Article 341, then we are ready to support the BJP in coming assembly elections of the Uttar Pradesh’. He further announced that nearly 64 backward castes of Muslims will come forward in support of BJP. Going beyond the limits, Dr Ali declared that, ‘the Morcha will cooperate with BJP on all the three controversial points, Article 370 & 371, Common Civil Code and Construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, if they consider our demand for reservations’. (Amar Ujala, June 21).

Before going into merits or demerits of the proposed support, we must analyze the demand for reservation objectively not emotionally. This demand is as old as independence itself. In fact a constitutional flaw or lacuna is responsible for the plight of Muslims and Christians alike.

At the time of drafting the constitution, Ambedkar was convinced by some Muslims that Indian Muslim society has no caste system although such a system was prevalent. Under Article 340, 341 and 342 Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward classes have rights to reservation. But constitutionally that ‘Right’ was limited to the believers of Hinduism only. This limitation itself is against the spirit of the constitution, which forbids favourism on grounds of religious affiliations. Perhaps this limitation was imposed by some ulterior motives. There was every possibility that dalits and backward classes of other religions will cross over to Hinduism for availing the fruits of reservations. In 1956 Sikhs fought for their rights and they were included with Hindus. Again in 1990 Buddhists were accommodated with Hindus and Sikhs. After 1990, the picture became more clearer. Only Muslims and Christians were left outside the reservation Umbrella. Is not this a constitutional fraud? No doubt that this outdated reservation policy should be modified by amending the constitution or scrapped totally.

From 1990 to 1993, Muslim Indians were totally pre-occupied in facing the violent politics of BJP. But after 1993, the demands of backward class and dalit Muslims for fair treatment in reservation policy gained momentum. Conferences on this burning issue were organized at different places. In one such conference held at Aligarh on August, 3, 1997 under the banner of ‘All India Backward Muslim Representative Meet’, Prof Humayun Murad simply said that, ‘We strongly advocate the demand for including all backward Muslims who have not been included in the existing list of OBS’s. This was done is case of Sikhs and neo-Buddhists. There is no reason why a similar step should not be taken in case of all backward Muslims’ (TOI, 5 August 1997) I think this is the factual and normal statement straight out of heart.

The demand of reservation for backward class and dalit Muslims has always been supported by the community. But there is some urgent need to re-examine the issue as whole. In response to one of my articles, ‘The logic of discrimination’ (The Pioneer, 16 January 1999) Syed Shahabuddin wrote back that, ‘even if some Muslims sub-communities which have common ancestors with Hindu Scheduled Castes and are engaged in common professions, are included, it will make negligible impact on the overall development of the Muslim Community’, (letter entitled ‘Scheduling Castes’, The Pioneer, January 25 1999) Syed Shahabuddin was right. I accept that we must take into account Muslims as one community because fragmentation of the community into Ashrafs or Ajlafs will lead us nowhere. On the other hand, this tendency will provide Sangh-Parivar opportunities to implement its plans.

Dr Ejaz Ali’s statement shows that he is prepared to barter away community’s interests. The question of supporting BJP, just to get reservation is totally misguided and miscalculated. The crimes of BJP or Sangh Parivar are not such that they may be condoned. This is not the question of just reservations but of dignity, individuality, rights and identity. Philosophy of the Sangh-Parivar is a threat to Muslim culture, religion and self-respect. It must be remembered.

Secondly, there will not be much government jobs left as a result of liberalization and globalization. Already BJP led central government is turning India from a social welfare state to capitalist one despite the opposition from masses.

In these circumstances, the demand for reservation is nothing but only a political game. I don’t see any merit in it. On the other hand, such demands will make gulf with in Indian Muslims society which will be exploited by the Sangh Parivar. Just consider, if a riot took place, any Bajrangi will leave me, just because I belong to a backward caste of Muslims and a BJP supporter. No, Dr Ejaz Ali, he will not. Your proposed support to the BJP will be suicidal.

Hence, all those who talk to support BJP should reconsider their approach in the light of ground realities. Muslim masses will not compromise on shariat or Babri Mosque. It will be appropriate that Dr Ejaz Ali go through the Bible of BJP-wall as entitled Bunch of Thoughts (By Guru Golwalkar) before considering any support to it.

Reservation will be welcomed but not by surrender of Muslim community’s interest. No doubt ends and goals are important but so are means. There is no question of supporting BJP, just for reservation.

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