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2007: Indian Muslim Press Statements
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Muslim Islamic NewsMinorities Council welcomes Misra Commission's Recommendations

PRESS STATEMENT

Reservations for Minorities and all Dalits, Misra Commission’s Recommendations Welcomed

Aligarh, 25 May, 2007: 1. We welcome the recommendations of the National Commission For Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Ranganath Misra for reservation of ten per cent public services for Muslims and five per cent for other religious minorities under Article 16(4) of the Constitution, and for extending the benefits of reservation to all persons of Dalit social origin irrespective of faith.

2. With regard to Dalits, the Minorities Council has been raising the issue that exclusion of persons of Dalit origin professing Christianity or Islam and their reinclusion on ‘returning’ to Hindu fold is not only discriminatory under Articles 14, 15 and 16 but is violative of the right to freely profess and practise one’s religion under Article 25, as the restriction provides disincentive to those who want to convert to Christianity or Islam, and provides inducement to Christian and Muslim Dalits to return to the Hindu fold. Moreover by amending the original Hindu-specific Presidential order of 1950 to include Sikhism and Buddhism, which are doctrinally egalitarian religions, the only basis of exclusion of Christianity and Islam is the categorization of religions into ‘indigenous’ and ‘non-indigenous’ ones, which is the basis of Hindutva ideology of nationhood. Thus exclusion of Christian and Muslim Dalits from the statutory benefits is not only unjust to concerned citizens but is also indirectly supportive of the Hindutva divisive ideology.

2.1 The note of dissent by member-secretary Asha Das, is based on the plea that since Christianity and Islam do not recognize caste, the legal recognition of the Christian & Muslim Dalits will amount to changing the tenets of these egalitarian religions. Buddhism and Sikhism are doctrinally equally egalitarian religions, but law has rightly taken into account the social reality of existence of accumulated historical deprivation among sections and classes of the Sikh and Bodh communities. Even if Christian and Muslim communities in India were ideally practising social egalitarianism, the talents of a Dalit convertee to these faiths will not get an automatic sudden boost eradicating his historical deprivation enabling him to compete on equal terms with advanced castes.

2.2 The real reason behind the note of dissent is the Hindu fear of mass conversion of Dalits to Christianity and Islam, which should not be dismissed. It should be ensured under law as well as under agreed ethical norms that there is no inducement by missionaries and no distress selling of souls.

3. Justification for provision of reservation of posts and seats for Muslims is provided by the finding of the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney case that the entire Muslim community can be declared backward for the purposes of Article 16(4). Given further the recognition of the fact by Justice Sachar Committee that the Muslim community of India as a whole is more backward than the Hindu OBCs, there is no reason to deny them the benefit of reservation just because of the still continuing shadow of Partition.

3.1 On the Minorities Council’s representation on this issue to the National Commission To Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), its Report has clarified that “the Commission, upon due consideration of the representations, felt that no special provision was necessary inasmuch as, under the existing provisions of articles 14, 15 and 16, it is open to the State to make reservation (in favour of minorities) if it is of the opinion that such reservation is necessary and justified.”

3.2 The opposition to such supposedly “religion-based” reservation by the Sangh Parivar is understandable, but the secular (including Marxist) classes need to reorient their thinking on the issue under the human rights perspective, which considers special measures for religious (and other) minorities as not violative of the citizen’s right to equality. It has been observed in the earlier Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment on reservation for Muslims that such reservation instead of being anti-secular, it is denial of benefit of reservation to a group just because it is Muslim, well be anti-secular. Secularism which is one of the basic features of the Constitution, requires equality of treatment of all citizens and groups, and effective substantive equality requires special measures for vulnerable minorities. It is this established principle of jurisprudence of equality expounded by the Permanent Court of International Justice in Albania School case in 1935, which forms part of India’s jurisprudence, on which basis preferential admission of minorities got validated under Article 30.

4. Reservation for Muslims is socially justified on the basis of their historical backwardness as well as for their post-1947 neglect and exclusion. It will not amount to privileging ‘Islam’, but will mean extending affirmative action to a community, which has been underrepresentated in public services as well as in elected bodies. The community has also been subjected to periodic violence and boycott for perceived wrongs of history. This vicious circle must be broken now.

4.1 However, what is considered as religion-based reservation, and which is opposed for fear of inducing conversion of Hindus to Islam needs to be taken care of by making a provision that now (post-legislation) convertees to Islam will be treated according to their social/caste status before conversion. Recent conversion to Islam alone will not entitle them to benefits meant for the existing community members.

5. Given that Muslims in general have been recognized by Sachar Committee as more backward than OBC Hindus, there is a need to evolve a formula of fair distribution of benefits of reservation for Muslims as a minority, among its more and most backward classes, which has been recognized by the Committee in terms of Ajlaf and Arzal. Instead of using these demeaning terms, secular law should classify Muslims as Backward, More Backward & Most Backward. Criteria for identification of these three socio-economic-educational and occupational Muslim groups and classes, let us hope, have been evolved by the Commission. In case it has not done so, an expert committee needs to be constituted for such classification among Muslims.

However policy decision on reservation for Dalits irrespective of faith and for Muslims and other minorities should not be further delayed for want of any such sub-classification.

We do not yet know the bases and modalities of provision of five per cent of reservation for other minorities by the Commission. We shall make our response known after getting full information on how to identify sections of other minorities for the purpose of reservation.

Minorities Council
Syeda Manzil, Muzammil Compound 4/1703, Dodhpur, Aligarh 202001; Tel: 0571-3298957 E-mail:iqbalansari2001@hotmail.com«

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