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Published in the 1-15 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Reservations for Indian Muslims

While the pros and cons of reservations for Muslims in state employment, educational facilities and other state largesse which have been denied them, on the basis of their religion, can now be granted on the basis of same religion as the criteria of their backwardness, is being discussed, it is interesting what reactions are coming from two opposite adversial camps, the Left and the Hindutva Right.

While the Marxists, true to their party line anathema, abjuring all mention of the unmentionable: the religion, would rather like Muslims to be divided in castes, just like Manu did for the so-called ‘Hindu’ society for thousands of years. The justification is that however much Islam may be against caste divisions, in Indian society, possibly in an attempt to shove them into the 'mainstream' in the past, Muslim society too is divided in castes on trade lines. So instead of reforming the community of such incongruities on the basis of their religion of Islam, the Marxist intellectual, would rather like Muslims to enlist as telis (oil crushers), Chamars (cobblers), Julahas (weavers), Barbers etc (all in the class of hewers of wood and drawers of water), to conform to the legal reservations given to OBCs. So while liberal Indian laws are working to take out the stigma of castes, the more urgent priority for the Marxists is to take out the danger of Islam. 

On the other side, the extremist Hindutvadis who by profession, have to be against any sob, any appeasement, any leniency towards Muslims, have come out some ingenious formulas to push their own agenda. As Ram Gopal, a regular writer in Pioneer daily, suggests:

No doubt, there are large sections of downtrodden and backward Muslims. They are all Hindu converts to Islam. Their remedy is to get back to their Hindu fold and get the benefit of SC/ST/OBC reservations. Hindu religious and charitable institutions should make appropriate arrangements to facilitate their homecoming. For good measure, Ram Gopal adds: Failure to do so will prove disastrous. Alas, Muslims thought they had only to just tackle with Bush, his neocons and evangelists, and they will be home dry!

Ghulam Muhammed, 

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