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Posted Online on Friday 10, February 2006 00:10 IST

Muslim Islamic NewsMemorandum to National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities

All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat
Memorandum
Submitted to 
National Commission for Religious 
and Linguistic Minorities

The Milli Gazette Online

INTRODUCTION

The Indian Society is a heterogeneous society, divided by religion, language, caste and domicile. Every social group/community, constituting a majority or minority at any level in the country, whatever the basis of its identity, is divided among various sub-groups/sub-communities. Even a religious community is divided into sub-communities based on sects, denominations and castes, even if it speaks the same language. The conventional starting point for analyzing the structure of the Indian society, which can be scientifically undertaken only on a regional basis, is religion or caste or language. Since all these strands are intermingled, every horizontal classification then needs to be supplemented by at least one vertical classification to arrive at a ‘homogeneous’ sub-group.

RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

Professed by over 80% of the people, by far the majority religion of the country is Hinduism though it is difficult to define Hinduism in terms of doctrines and dogmas, even to enumerate its denominations and sects. Denominational divides within Hinduism have regional or local manifestations. Roughly 65%, out of 80%, are considered to be socially and educationally backward and enjoy reservation and/or special dispensation in a variable manner. They are listed as SC or OBC’s. The balance 15% consists of upper castes - Brahmins, Kshatrias and Vaishyas. What is important is to realise that while they are well-positioned in the life of the country, in every sphere, there are pockets of backwardness within each upper caste. Their overall backwardness as compared to the SC/OBC may be lower and with a small population, their reservation quota may be very small, yet backwardness among the upper castes is a social reality and needs a helping hand.

According to the Census about 20% of the national population consist of Religious Minorities, though their percentage, individually and collectively, may vary from state to state. Muslim minorities form the biggest, with over 13% of the population and thus 2/3 of all religious minorities. Next come Sikhs and Christians followed by mini-communities like Buddhists, Jains and Parsis. In conventional parlance the word ‘minority’ has, however, become identified with Muslims, while the term should cover the Hindu community wherever it is in a minority, from the Panchayats to the States.

Muslims are a pan-national community but they are concentrated in 10 states: UP, West Bengal, Bihar, AP, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan. Together these states account for over 85% of the Muslim population.

That Muslim minority – with local variations – is educationally and economically backward and, therefore, poorly represented in every sphere of life – politics, government service, education, business, mass media (except films) and thus socially backward is well-established. There are individual exceptions who have reached the top but on the whole the Muslims are proportionately less educated and more unemployed and have limited access to productive assets. Many random socio-economic surveys, including some at state level, have established the fact of their economic and social backwardness. Nationwide surveys undertaken by NCAER (India Development Report, Oxford, 1999) and the National Sample Survey Organization (NSS 50th Round, June, 1998) highlight their collective backwardness. Gopal Singh Panel data collected in the early 80’s are out of date but the latest data are available from various State Surveys e.g. Karnataka, AP, Kerala and Bihar.

Perhaps the Hon’ble Commission is not concerned with the religious minorities as a whole but with sections among each religious minority which is backward. Unfortunately there are simply no authentic data to indicate the population of various religious sub-communities, far less to quantify the relative backwardness of Muslim sub-communities among the Muslims or in relation to the other 100% backward communities like the SC’s or ST’s.

Therefore, it is impossible to identify the backward sections within the Muslim community and to quantify their proportion. The Hon’ble Commission may like to consider the Muslim community as a whole and treat it as an identifiable section of the Religious Minorities.

However, both Hindus and Muslims are divided into castes through the caste system does not create the same or even similar disabilities among Muslims. For example, no Muslim belonging to the so-called low castes, vocationally akin to Hindu SC’s, faces any bar in social or religious interaction within the community e.g. access to shrines and congregational prayers in the Masjids, as they do not bear the stigma of untouchability. But the caste in the Muslim community is perpetuated by customary endogamy as the proportion of marriages between different baradaris (caste groups) is very low and also between the so-called Ashraf (high caste) and Arzal (low caste) as a whole, though the incidence of such marriages is rising with spread of education and social mobility.

On account of economic similarities and vocational identity, many Muslim ‘low caste’ groups have been included in the OBC Lists of the Centre and the States, alongwith Hindu counterparts. Even those Muslim Sub-communities which have the same vocations as the SC’s are included in the OBC List. All those in the OBC Lists face a handicap due to communal bias largely due to historical reasons and, therefore, do not benefit duly from reservation.

While the so-called low castes among the Muslims in any case enjoy the benefit of reservation as OBC, though not in full measure, a real problem is faced by the so-called high castes among Muslims – Syeds, Shaikhs, Pathans etc. – who were dependent on government employment and on land holdings which they have largely lost, since 1947. Comparatively they have also suffered more displacement during the Partition.

This problem of the backward sections among the Muslims, not covered by reservation, is the same as these faced by the Hindu high castes cited above. All these ‘high castes’, Hindu or Muslim, have their share of poverty, unemployment and economic distress and deprivation, their pockets of backwardness. However, poverty and backwardness are much more endemic and widespread among the Muslim high castes then among the Hindu high castes, because of relatively lower profile in politics and discrimination within governance and administration.

The Hon’ble Commission is requested to devise a method to identify the backward pockets among the Muslims and quantify their population and measure their backwardness.

Firstly, it is suggested that caste census be reintroduced for all communities.

Secondly, the criteria for determining and measuring backwardness should be universal, uniform, objective, transparent and quantifiable, and applicable to all caste sub-groups or sub-communities – for example, functional literacy, incidence of matriculation or technical diploma or basic university degree, per capita income, per capita land holding, possession of shelter which can be easily ascertained.

Thirdly, the level of backwardness may be determined in relation to the state as a whole or the SC’s therein or the BPL population.

Fourthly, once the proportion of a backward group or sub-group in national or state population is determined and its relative backwardness is ascertained, it can be assigned a quota as a multiple of Population and Backwardness.

Fifthly, the quota should apply not only in public employment or higher education but also in the benefits of all development and welfare programmes which are targetted at individuals or families within the area of operation, and in flow of bank credit and in representation in legislatures. All the welfare or development schemes targeting individuals/families should be universal in application, irrespective of religion or caste, e.g. all widows who have no means of support or all orphans or all families living below the poverty line (BPL) or all handicapped or aged persons. But if, due to paucity of resources, there has to be a pick-and-choose, there should be a separate quota for each backward sub-community in the operational area in proportion to its population so that every group gets its due share.

Sixthly, the distribution of benefits should be under social control and transparent, not left to the whim of the bureaucrats or the fancies of the legislators who have their own priorities. The distribution system must be decentralised to village/mahalla in the interest of transparency and equity.

Seventhly, all provisions for the welfare of the Backward Classes, including educational incentives, reservation in post-secondary and technical education and government employment be extended without discrimination to all the backward communities, groups or sections thereof.

Eighthly, on 50% ceiling on reservation, the AIMMM is of the view that this is an artificial and illogical ceiling because the proportion of Other Backward Classes (other than SC and ST) varies from state to state and also their level of backwardness. The total quantum of reservation in a state should be the sum total of quotas assigned to the various Backward Classes, calculated on the basis of their population and their relative backwardness as compared to the SC’s (which get full weightage for their population). Already in practice, several States like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have exceeded the 50% limit. There is absolutely no logic in restricting the OBC’s to 27% reservation all over the country.

Finally, the benefit of any quota should be available only to those families whose income and educational level fall below the Poverty Line or the state average. In other words, the ‘creamy layer’ should be defined realistically as the families above the Poverty Line or state average in income and education. In brief, the quotas should be calculated for all identifiable and conscious groups according to their population but its benefits should go only the backward families within each group.

It is submitted that the Hon’ble Commission may like to recommend necessary constitutional and legal modalities to implement the above suggestions, if they are accepted.

LINGUISTIC MINORITIES

Since the national territory was reorganized in 1956 broadly on linguistic basis, it is possible to define linguistic minorities in terms of the linguistic demography at the state, district, block and panchayat levels with the help of the Census data. Generally speaking, the linguistic minorities in any state are cut off from full participation in politics and administration as well as educational and economic activities. So they tend to be socially backward. In India government service has high social value and the linguistic minorities do not enjoy equal access to education and consequently to public and private employment or even in the market for skilled labour.

Generally, the linguistic minorities are expected by the state authorities to undergo linguistic assimilation under pressure of circumstances though this may be contrary to constitutional assurances. Over a period of time many states appear to have almost forgotten about the safeguards for linguistic minorities enunciated at the dawn of independence. Ironically, the demographic situation is that while every state is a haven for its majority linguistic group, outside its border, that group forms a minority in many other States, where it faces the same difficulties as other linguistic minorities.

Only one or two linguistic groups face an exceptional situation. The Urdu-speaking population which forms about 6-7% of the total population has no home-base. Apart from Sindhi, Urdu is the only MIL which is a linguistic minority throughout the country. Urdu is a concentrated in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, AP and Karnataka and in pockets in MP, Gujarat, Haryana, West Bengal. It is the biggest linguistic minority, it is a truly pan-Indian language and is understood all over the country. But, over the years, it has become increasingly identified with the Muslims. So that Urdu-speaking Muslims, roughly 50% of the Muslims, as a whole, stand doubly jeopardised and deprived.

It is fairly simple to identify the administrative units, Panchayats, Blocks, Districts and States where a minority language is spoken or has been declared as Mother Tongue by, say, 5% or more of the people.

In the light of the Annual Reports of the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, which have been tabled but never discussed in the Parliament, the latest being the 42nd Report for July 2003 - June, 2004, one concludes that the constitutional safeguards have not been fully implemented in any state, even in those States in which a minority language has been declared by law as the second official language. Urdu has been so declared in Bihar, UP, AP and Delhi but its situation is no better in them.

Minority languages cannot compete with the Principal Language of the State for State patronage or for use in education, administration and information. But in terms of the Constitutional safeguards, administrative assurance and international norms summarized in UN Declaration of Rights of Minorities, 1992, every linguistic minority of any state deserves the following facilities.

1. Education a) Unconditional use of the language as medium of primary instruction because every child has this natural right.

b) Teaching of the language to all its children through the school as First Language under the Three Language Formula in order to acquire due proficiency.

c) Teaching of Principal Language of the State as Compulsory Second Language.

d) Establishment of government schools in minority-concentration areas in accordance with national norms.

e) Recognition and affiliation of schools and government aid to established and administered by the linguistic minorities.

f) Recognition of non-formal educational institutions of primary and secondary education as equivalent to normal schools.

2. Administration a) Use of minority language for specified official purposes at all levels of administration where the proportion of the linguistic minorities is 5% or more, which demands adequate translation facilities.

b) Use of minority language as medium of examination for public employment.

c) Requirement to pass an examination in Principal Language at elementary level only following recruitment.

3. Legislature: A member whose Mother Tongue is a M.I.L. Language should be permitted to take oath in his Mother Tongue and to use his Mother Tongue for putting questions and making statements.

4. Information Use of minority language by government electronic media and in government advertisement in proportion to minority population within the service area of each station/centre.

5. Elections Electoral rolls of various polling stations should be published in the minority languages which constitute at least 5% of their population, in all Parliamentary or Assembly Constituencies.

INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), in addition, proposes the following institutional arrangements for safeguarding the interests of religious and linguistic minorities:

(1) Creation of a Ministry of Minority Welfare directly under the Prime Minister/Chief Minister or under a MOS responsible to the Prime Minister/Chief Minister.

(2) Establishment of a Joint Committee on Minority Welfare in the Parliament and in the State Legislatures to monitor progress of the religious and linguistic minorities and the impact of the Central and State Schemes for their welfare and development.

(3) Amendment of Article 15(4) of the Constitution to define backwardness more realistically as ‘educational and economic and, therefore, social’.

(4) Appropriate legislation to strengthen the operation of the office of the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, which is a Constitutional post, to give it the powers of a civil court and the staff and budgetary resources to investigate the grievances of linguistic minorities.

(5) Restriction of the constitutional principle of non-discrimination on the ground of domicile by the Centre or the State only to Group A or Class I jobs. This will give the Centre and the States the freedom to reserve Group B jobs within a State for those domiciled in the State, Group C jobs for those domiciled in the district and Group D jobs for those domiciled within the Panchayat or the town. Such selective application will reduce the unmanageable movement towards all employment opportunities anywhere in the country, cut down unnecessary expenditure on T.A., transfer or holiday, and by localising the administrative system make it more socially responsive. Such preference will also be in line with the ideal of decentralization. Today, with the spread of education, every state, district, panchayat/town is in a position to throw up qualified candidates for Group B, C and D posts respectively and the backward classes in any part of the country should enjoy access and opportunity in their own areas.

(6) Amendment to Para 3 of the Constitution (SC) Order, 1950: the AIMMM is of the view that the religious criterion should be altogether removed in keeping with the secular philosophy of the Indian State and all groups, irrespective of religion, which have been professionally and vocationally akin to the SC’s should be included in the SC List. The State should not act as protector of Hinduism but as defender of Freedom of Religion.

Indeed the Sikhs and the neo-Buddhists have been already included. Only the Muslims and the Christians remain out. There is no logical reason to leave them in the cold.

The number of Dalit Muslim is very small and too dispersed. It is doubtful that transfer from the OBC to the SC Lists will benefit them but there is growing pressure because the SC’s enjoy reservation in legislatures which the OBC’s do not. In case the OBC’s are also granted reservation, this pressure may fade out.

Conclusion:

To conclude, the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) emphasizes the need for determination of the population of every identifiable group or sub-group and for ascertaining its relative level of backwardness on the basis of universally uniform and objective parameters. This exercise should be repeated after each Census. Hopefully with educational and economic progress, the level of backwardness of each group will go down and consequently the individual quotas, the reserved space will contract and the free space shall expand as the society moves towards social equality. The long-term national objective should be a level playing field for all, an equal society without discrimination and reservation.

The AIMMM would also like to place on record its considered view that the best solution, conducive to the overall progress of the society, is universalization of reservation for all identifiable and homogenous social groups or sub-groups which form a sizeable population, so that on the basis of common parameters they are entitled to a quota of at least 1%, with mini-sub-groups, below 1% share of population, either joining together to form one viable group or joining existing sub-groups of their choice.

This drastic approach shall see a new dawn of social justice and kickstart upward mobility and generate all round social progress and eventually fulfill the expectations of the deprived and eliminate the persistent monopoly of the privileged. The social environment, purged of exploitation and discontent, shall become more harmonious in both inter-community and inter-caste dimension.

To achieve empowerment of the Backward Classes and the Minorities, the Constitution should be amended to introduce a Proportional System of Representation in Legislatures to replace the current FPP System. Such an electoral system will not only make the democratic system more representative but ensure due representation in the legislatures of all weaker sections, particularly the Religious Minorities, which face bias under the present system, and the Extremely Backward Classes, which are too scattered to be politically effective. The AIMMM is convinced that the goal of Social Justice in a segmented society cannot be achieved without due representation of all segments of the people in the power structure, without the political empowerment of all identifiable socially defined and conscious segments, whatever their caste or religion or vocation or domicile.

New Delhi, 28 January, 2006

(SYED SHAHABUDDIN)
PRESIDENT, AIMMM

ALL INDIA MUSLIM MAJLIS-e-MUSHAWARAT
D-250, Abul Fazal Enclave, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi - 110 025 Phone: 2632 6780 Fax: 2632 7346  Email: muslim@del3.vsnl.net.in ; www.mushawarat.com 

 

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