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Muslim representation in India
By Muhammad Sajjad
|The Constitution of democratic India claims adherence to secularism. However, now it is no longer a topic of discussion that in India the sense in which this word is used is different from Europe. The Constitution also claims to provide equality of opportunity to all individuals, organizations and social groups and for this, there is also a proposal of protective discrimination. Effort is also being made to put it into practice to a large extent. But despite this fact, the biggest minority of this country is a victim of deprivation to the same extent. Whether it is legislative assemblies educational institutions, govt. jobs, problem of security in case of riots, representation in political organization, posts in policy planning and decision taking groups or other pressure groups there is acute shortage of their representation every where, resulting in constant social tension.
This state of affairs can be detrimental to the progress of any society or country. Political experts are unanimous in their views that in the developing countries only politics is the means of progress. Hence the solution of these problems may be found in politics only. For this, our attention is diverted towards members of legislative assemblies. Our political system is based on democracy. If we deeply study our democratic experience of fifty years, the way we achieved independence, the blueprint of free India that we made during the freedom struggle, it becomes clear that in order to achieve democratic rights, a social group must, first of all, identify and understand its problems clearly and present them through different organization. In other words, it can be said that in the present political and administrative system of the government, we have to grab our rights. We can not get any thing by sitting idle.
Insofar as the rights of Muslims are concerned, the experience of the last fifty years shows that all governments, political organizations and leaders have failed in giving them their due rights. There can be detailed discussion on this problem. For the movement a couple of examples can make the point clear and indicate the reasons for the failure of our political leaders, how it will weaken our democratic system and what will be the solution.
Prof. Sarvapalli Gopal has written in the biography of Nehru that in 1947-48 when prime minister Nehru was making arrangements for the facilities and relief for Muslim migrants in Delhi, the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, had opposed it. He considered these Muslims as hostages for Hindus of Pakistan.
Another example is that of Govind Ballabh Pant who was the Chief Minister of UP. He openly opposed giving jobs to Muslims in police and stopped government aid to Urdu medium schools. All these things were painful to Nehru and he expressed his feelings in his correspondences but in practice he did not do any thing worthwhile to stoop this kind of attitude. This shows that the position in the past was more or less the same as at present. For example in Bihar Rabri Devi government is formed on the basis of electoral alliance of Muslims and Yadavs but in spite of this fact the number of Muslim representation is very small. The proportion of Muslims in the state civil services and for lecturer-ship is almost 10%; but after the restoration of the posts of police sub-inspectors, the capability of Muslim candidates was found so much lacking that out of 1660 posts, only 28 Muslims were taken whereas Yadav candidates occupied more than 400 posts. Not only this, when Laloo Yadav was the chief minister, he had declared that 400 Urdu knowing police sub-inspectors will be appointed, but till date no political representative is willing to ask as to when this declaration will be put into practice? This is despite the fact that the first condition for their safety against riots is that the proportion of Muslims in security and paramilitary forces should be at least 10 percent.
Now let us see the reason that prevents Muslim leaders from raising their voice or asking for rights of their social groups. Firstly, Muslim political representatives find a place in their party only on the mercy and generosity, of their political organizations, not on their own strength. Hardly any Muslim politician reaches the upper ranks on his own strength. All of them have been imposed from above. Hence they are loyal to their party's high command and therefore cannot represent Muslims and take up their problems and raise their voice either inside the House or outside.
Secondly, whenever a communal party fights election against a party which calls itself secular, it becomes easier for this so called secular party to get Muslim votes, irrespective of the fact whether this party has done any thing or not for the educational, social or economic welfare of Muslim.
It there are different groups in the party that occupies power, Muslim representatives get ministerial, posts because of these differences and they have to be loyal to them. So they cannot bring their problems in the open unless there is a possibility of Muslim votes going against this party. In such cases the ruling party appoints a few Muslims as governors or to some other important posts. It is also a bitter truth that all political parties in India have fielded to get non-Muslim votes for Muslim candidates. This is true in case of such candidates as Maulana Azad as well. He had to fight election from places where there was high concentration of Muslim population. It is because of this reason that the representation of Muslims in legislative assemblies is very low in proportion to their population.
There is another problem in some states. Which language should be used for debates and discussions in the legislative houses? One example fits to be noted here. Once a discussion was going on against Urdu in the Andhra Pardesh Assembly. Mr. Makhdoom Muhiuddin, an MLA, was sitting quietly in the Assembly because as per the rule of the house he could speak or participate in this discussion only in Telugu.
In such circumstances media can play an important role because in today's world media is the super power. After analyzing all these problems the following solutions can be proposed: On the basis of general and universal principles, matters concerning Muslim problems will have to be regularly presented in the media so that general public and particularly educated people and intelligentsia, may be aware of these problems and difficulties. In a parliamentary system there are several ways that can be fully utilized to propagate these problems such as introducing a bill on important issues, participating in discussions and propagating them among the general public, particularly educated Muslims, asking questions and clarifications, submitting memoranda to different officials and ministers, giving these issues form of people's movement, taking the problems to courts, using Gandhian methods such as 'satyagraha', hunger strikes, peaceful protests and processions etc.
Internal democracy is very essential in political parties so that backward and neglected people may be able to get their problems included in the party's agenda.
But the most important thing for Muslim is to choose their priorities i.e. which problems to be given first, second and third priorities or preferences. Expediency and farsightedness demands that problems common to other backward citizens, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, should be given preference, such as the demand for making primary education compulsory, improvement of law and order, making the administration more responsive, improvement of conditions in govt. hospitals, electric and water supply, roads, granting of loans on easy terms for setting up business and small scale industries and trades and removing corruption in govt. departments etc, etc. Social justice is very essential for strengthening democracy. All social groups should be suitably accommodated and represented, in proportion to their population, in legislature, executive/administration, judiciary, media, political organizations, trade etc. Only then the roots of democracy will be strengthened in the true sense.