Reservation for Muslims at IITs, IIMs is a pressing need
By Kaleem Kawaja
Milli Gazette Online
Today the need for reservation for Muslims in quality higher educational institutions is the same as that for Dalits and OBCs. That need is based on the extreme educational backwardness of the Muslim community, which is very comparable to that of Dalits and OBCs.
In the last 58 years much improvement has occurred in the educational situation of SC/ST people in India. And that has resulted in much socio-economic uplift of these depressed communities in India. It is similar to the Affirmative Action program begun in 1965 in US in the wake of the Civil Rights Act. That too has brought about much educational and consequently socio-economic improvement of the Blacks in US. In fact this improvement is very visible.
If these communities were told that reservation will harm you, and instead you should try to make overall improvement in education at grassroots level and in competitiveness, they would have remained at their earlier depressed levels. There is no question about that. The reason being that the backwardness was so large scale that the only practical solution to the problem was to find a reserved space for them in the classrooms in quality institutions.
In the post 1947 India, the Muslim community which was already backward in education, began a steep downward decline in education and consequently in jobs. The post 1947 anger and reaction of Hindus at Muslims for the creation of Pakistan played a major role in this decline. Beginning in the
1950s not only the competitiveness of Muslim youth has dropped very low, even the condition of Muslim colleges/schools has dropped very low.
Obviously it is critical to improve the overall quality of education in the community. The Muslim community in India has begun that effort. But it needs a lot of help from the Govt and many years to accomplish that objective. But just as SCs/STs in India and Blacks in US needed Affirmative Action help, today Muslims in India need the same help, with the same objective in mind.
The lower classes of Muslims were very backward in education compared to Hindus even before 1947. But after 1947 a large segment of the erstwhile middleclass Muslims have fallen in the same backwardness. I recall that when I was studying Mechanical Engineering at IIT Kharagpur, I was the only Muslim student in a class of 50. It was the same situation in other engineering departments. Since then the situation has become worst. In the recent conference of North America based alumni of IITs in Washington DC, which I attended, of the about 2,000 attendees there were only 2 Muslims. It appears that Muslim students are literally shut out of IITs and IIMs.
Every time I visit India, I ask Muslim youth in my family and other middleclass Muslim families, if they are planning to enter IITs, IIMs. The answer I get from almost 99% is: "It is not possible for us Muslims to get admission in these institutions". This total hopelessness of the average Muslim youth in India is the same as that felt by SCs/STs/OBCs in India in the 1950s.
The other point we must not loose sight of is the fact that while Hindu lower castes are benefitting from reservation, Muslims from comparable lower zaats eg kasai, dhobi, julaha, naee, milkmen, saqqa etal are being unfairly deprived of it.
It is to break this paradigm of utter hopelessnes, to provide a progress path for Muslim youth, and to reverse their total shut out from IITs, IIMs, that some limited reservation is needed for the Muslim youth in these institutions.
A counted few Muslims competing successfully with others and entering IITs, IIMs or other quality institutions is merely an exception to the massive educational backwardness of the community. Something has to be done about the huge masses of Muslim youth and their future in a rapidly growing India. For how long can India afford to keep these masses alienated and excluded from the nation's mainstream. Will not such across the board alienation of Muslim youth harm India itself?
On behalf of 150,000 NRI Muslims in North America, we support the recent statement from HRD minister Arjun Singh, that the HRD ministry is giving serious consideration to this proposal, and we thank the honorable minister for his help to the Muslim community.
Kaleem Kawaja is President, Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC. He may be contacted at