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Reservation for Muslims
By Masum Moradabadi

Once again the question of reservation for Muslims in government jobs is being raised. This time the question was raised By Mamata Banerjee who recently stated in Calcutta that if her party, Trinamul Congress, comes to power in West Bengal in the forthcoming Assembly elections Muslims will be given reservation in government jobs. The BJP president Bangaru Laxman has opposed reservation for Muslims whereas other parties have not expressed their views so far.

It is no secret that the representation of Muslims in government and other jobs is disproportionately low. Though the reason for this may be bias to a certain extent against Muslims, their educational and social backwardness is also responsible to a considerable extent. Due to educational backwardness, their performance in competitive examinations is disappointing.

Communal forces think that reservation for Muslims is a matter of concern for the country. But there are Muslims who are also opposed to such idea. When the Constituent Assembly was in the process of framing the county’s Constitution, this question also came up for discussion but a Muslim lady member opposed reservation for Muslims. As a matter of fact, the criterion of reservation, broadly speaking, is not religion but social and economic backwardness. Therefore, there is no provision of reservation for Muslims in the Constitution. If reservation is to be given to Muslims, it will necessitate an amendment in the Constitution which is not anyway an easy task.

Among the Indian states, Karnataka and Kerala provide reservation for Muslims in government jobs. In these states Muslims are better off socially and educationally as compared to other states: They are politically more conscious. Unfortunately, this is not so in North Indian states. Here, they are a scattered lot As regards Mamta Banerjee’s promise of reservation for Muslim it appears to be a political necessity for her. Elections are to be held for Bengal Assembly in a few months and she is trying hard to end the monopoly of Communist Party which has been ruling the state for a long period. She wants her own party to form the next government in W Bengal. Muslims form 26-28 percent of W Bengal’s population, which is quite a large number to make or mar a government. That is why she wants to attract Muslims in her party’s favour by encouraging Urdu and reservation for them in government jobs and other places, even though reservation for Muslims is not enshrined in the Constitution.

BJP President, Bangaru Laxman, while opposing reservation for Muslims in government jobs said that makers of the Constitution, after carefully considering the question of reservation for Muslims, did not agree and felt that there is no need for reservation for Muslims. At the same time he said that under the recommendations of Mandal Commission, backward Muslims enjoy the facilities of reservation.

The argument of certain intellectuals, including some Muslims also, that the basis for reservation enshrined in the Constitution is not religion but social, economic, educational etc. backwardness is not completely true. The fact that reservation had been limited to scheduled caste and backward Hindus only and not to backward Muslims or Christians shows that the basis for reservation was religion also. Moreover, the provision of a subsequent law that in case a Dalit or a backward Hindu enjoying the fruits of reservation embraces Islam or Christianity, he will be deprived of the benefits of reservation, clearly shows that religion is also the basis of reservation.

Though the Congress, the second largest party, has not so far clearly said anything in favour of reservation for Muslims, it is also considering for something in this direction. The Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, appears to be considering reservation for Muslims on the lines as prevalent in Karnataka and Kerala.

If it is true then it is a welcoming sign for Muslims. These parties should start by creating a provision for reservation of Muslim women in the proposed Women Reservation Bill in the Parliament and state assemblies. The sub-quota for Muslim women in the proposed 33 percent reservation for women will show how sincere Trinamul Congress, Congress and other secular parties are. It will show how sincere they are in their promises of granting reservation to Muslims in government jobs.

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