Let us take charge of our Ummah

Duly supported with authentic data, the Justice Rajindar Sachar Committee gauged in 2006 the Muslim deficit in India vis-a-vis any other community or social group. This Committee and the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission (2008) recommended a series of affirmative actions to be taken by the Government in order to restore justice to Muslims and ameliorate their plight to the level of national averages. However, very little, say less than ten percent, of follow up action has been taken so far that includes amending the Waqf law, instituting the national minorities scholarship schemes and establishing the national commission for minority educational institutions. A host of major recommendations whose implementation would make the real difference still remain confined to the portals of these two landmark reports of recent Indian history. Though the 2014 parliamentary election manifestos of the Congress Party and Aam Aadmi Party did belatedly take note of some of these many remaining recommended steps.

The main reason of Muslim backwardness is the community's gross under-representation in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) and provincial assemblies as well as the judiciary and the bureaucracy. The presidential order of 1950 denies to Muslims (13.4% of total Indian population), Christians and Zoroastrians access to 15%+ seats in every legislature, judiciary and the civil service. Justice Misra Report says its a black law infused in the statute from the back gate; the Supreme Court agrees. Yet, this anathema remains on the statute book mostly to the chagrin of Muslims who are the dominant minority. Simultaneously, as a double jeopardy, Justice Sachar Committee has pointed out that a large number of the parliamentary and assembly constituencies with huge Muslim population and quite low presence of the Hindu/Sikh/Budhist barbers, tailors, blacksmiths, sweepers etc named in the Constitution as Scheduled Castes (SC) have been reserved for the latter. On the other hand, there is another set of constituencies with high SC population but low Muslim visibility that have not been reserved for SCs. Thus, Sachar Committee recommended that the Delimitation Commission should be appointed and mandated to remove these anomalies. Secondly, the definition of Scheduled Caste needs to be purged of religious parochialism. These actions are yet to be taken.

In the meanwhile, Muslims themselves need to take crucial affirmative action. We are not in the habit of doing that even though our faith mandates us to do so; in fact the basic elements of Islamic system warrant devotion of at least one third of the individual's existence for the sake of the community. In Surah Al-Qadr Allah says that the night of mystic glory is better that one thousand months. That's a strong divine indication that from inception to infinity the average human life is of about 84 years. The first one third segment is for self, the second for self and family and the third is mostly for the community. Using Allama Iqbal's terminology I've named the members of the third segment as Keemiyagar; that means the alchemist who turns ordinary metals into gold. They continue to have robust limbs and brain but have fulfilled their responsibilities. They will have to come forward to change the community's track. Zakat Foundation of India runs a Department of Delimitation. According to its research even among the 85% unreserved constituencies there is abundant potential for substantial Muslim win. For instance, in U. P. that sends the largest number of members (80) to Lok Sabha, there are 63 unreserved seats. Out of these, in 18 seats Muslims are 25-52%, in 23 Muslims are 15-24% and in another 18 Muslims are 10-14%. Similar is the demographic-electoral reflection in most of the states.

In every Indian constituency with 15% Muslim population or more the local Keemiyagars will have to form a group of 10-12 persons of their ilk, name it KGP (Keemiyagars Political) and begin working from a room in one of their own houses. They can google and collect information from the Registrar of Census Operations and Election Commission regarding the Muslim population and percentage in their respective constituencies - otherwise obtain it by writing an email to info@zakatindia.org. They need to comprehend the major Muslim issues at the national, provincial and local levels and their solutions and start intensely working on these within the constituency by way of advocacy and meaningful activism. The next parliamentary election will be held after five years or less; during this period every state assembly will also be re-voted. But within the next two years or so the KGP would have won the hearts of the local Muslims so much that they will tend to vote en masse a candidate of the KGP's choice.

Another parallel group of Keemiyagars will have to be formed in each constituency, named as KGA (Keemiyagars Administrative) that would select the academically ablest graduate or PG boys & girls and encourage them to prepare well and appear at the civil services competitive examinations organized by the central and provincial public service commissions. These fellows will have to be sent for coaching in professionally & privately run most successful coaching institutes for civil services for which funds will have to be garnered from within the local community. Mind you the main purpose of this exercise will not only be getting good employment to the community youth but to empower the community.

With these measures in place, within the next 5-7 years Muslims of India will inshaAllah begin feeling a fresh breeze of optimism, buoyancy, confidence and a useful sense of direction. All this will catapult them to a pedestal of equality that's our cherished constitutional value.

Author is President, Zakat Foundation of India. He can be reached at info@]zakatindia.org

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