Opinions

Muslim reservation: Unending tales of broken promises

It may not be wrong to say that many of us are the victim of promises made by politicians and leaders. They pull the wool on our eyes with their tempting promises for their political gains and leave us high and dry.

Whenever elections approach, there opens a sluice gate of promises from the leader’s mouth. Though it doesn’t make any positive change in our lives, our drains get choked because of the unseasonal rains and make our lives more miserable. They dry up as soon as the elections are over leaving us in the lurch.

And, this has become our habit that when we are disappointed with one political party, we chase another one for help and counting on the promises made by it and pull on our life for some more years.

There is no need of going anywhere, take the example of the previous government at the Centre. The ruling party leaders had made countless promises to the Muslim voters. By hearing their promises we had started thinking that we would also live a fearless life. Our youth would also climb the ladders of development with their compatriots and also live a healthy life.

The government had promised that the Muslims would also be given reservations in education and government jobs.  But it happened that we kept waiting for the time when our leaders would honour their words but time never came.

When we got tired of waiting, we decided to meet our Supreme Leader to ask him about the fate of the promises that he had made to us.  One day we reached his office. He was very happy. Like a lover, we thought that since he was seeing us after a long time he was so happy.  We also became happy and started smiling. But when the spell of happiness and smiling was over and the round of talk started, it poured cold water on our happiness.

“Today is a big day in my life,” said the Supreme Leader. (We were surprisingly happy as we had heard such dialogues in movies when the heroine and hero see each other after a long time). “India has become a big economic power in the world. Sensex has crossed 25,000 mark.”  We thought in our heart, “This is the problem with us. India is developing and we Muslims are getting backward.”

When we told him the reason for our visit, he started delivering a speech as if he was addressing a crowd of not less than 5 lakh people.  He said,” Our government is working for the welfare of each and every section of society.” On one hand, he was delivering the speech, on the other, his secretaries were piling up files of lies on the table.

 He continued his speech behind the mount of files:  “We are committed to delivering the fruits of development to everybody. That’s why we have widened the roads and opened expressways and also running so many superfast trains and metro trains. Still, if the fruits of development are not reaching them we will not hesitate to develop more airports so that the fruits of development could be delivered on the roofs of their houses.”

When we interrupted and asked him about the promises he had made to the Muslims, he said from behind the files: “We are looking into the matter and will certainly find a solution for the problems faced by Muslims.” After some formal talks, we returned home thinking when the Supreme Leader had promised he would certainly keep his words.

When many months had elapsed, again we visited his office and enquire about the progress. He said, “The government is conducting a survey to ascertain the extent of social and educational problems faced by minorities. After the completion of the survey, the government will take action.”

We thought that the government should be given some time. When it had not done anything in the past sixty years and now it was determined to take action it will take a bit time. When we got the news that the survey had been done and the report was submitted to the government, again we decided to meet him.

This time our Supreme Leader informed us that the government wanted to conduct a survey of Army and Police to ascertain the strength of Muslims in the armed forces. We were very glad. We thought, “the presence of Muslims in Army and Police is very important. If they are recruited in the armed forces they would also get the chance to defend the community besides taking bribes from people and do goondagardi with impunity.” We thanked the Supreme Leader.

When we were informed through our source that the survey regarding Army and Police had also been done, we asked him, “Sir, the time has come.  Give the Muslims legitimate reservation.”

“Why the Muslim students fail in the subjects of Science and Maths in exams? A survey should also be conducted on this issue. When this survey is done we will fulfill all the demands made to the Muslim,” he said with a meaningful smile. This time we were very angry but we controlled our emotions and returned home.

II

Little by little, the weeks rolled into months and months into years. The seeds that were in the womb of the earth sprouted out and blossomed into large trees; the toddler who could not walk a step with confidence started playing around; and the youngsters who had been pursuing various courses became professionals and started prosperous life.

On the other hand, the dawn that we had been waiting for never came and the clouds bearing droplets of prosperity showered everywhere except our roofs and we remained in the same condition as we had been earlier. In the meantime, the government at the Centre demitted office after finishing its second Ph.D. and took refuge into the pages of history, to be remembered only by the political pundits and scholars.

Meanwhile, in our state, a regional party launched a campaign for the creation of a new state on the ground that the people of the larger part had exploited those from the smaller part of the state. Since we Muslims had a feeling of being cheated by the Grand Old Party, and also the Leader-in-Chief had promised us a pie in the sky assuring us decent representation in government institutions and job in the new state, we also joined the fight for the new state.

After a prolonged struggle, at last, we got freedom from the oppressive people of the larger region and a new state came into being. Celebrations were everywhere. With the creation of a new state, new avenues were opened for the people. Since the government offices were purged of the people of the oppressive region, those who could not get employment in the past, got plum posts.

While people were filling the space left by natives of the residual state, on the other hand, unfortunately, we were sidelined and forgotten in the new state. After waiting for about one year, finally, we decided to meet our Leader-in-Chief to remind and ask him about the promises he had made to Muslims.

There was a festive mood at the Leader-in-Chief‘s residence. To our surprise, there were a lot of Muslims. They were enjoying tea, coffee and samosas and cakes served freely to everyone.

An army of camera-toting journalists and other scribes was swarming the sprawling lawn of the house. There we met one of our friend journalists who informed us that the Leader-in-Chief was going to make a statement about the Muslim reservation.

The moment came which we were waiting for. Amid sloganeering of long live, opposition down, down, the Leader-in-Chief emerged from his residence. Lo and behold! He was wearing a skullcap.  Assalaam Alaikum, he greeted the gathering. We were blown away. We were happy that still, he recognied his Muslim voters.

The Leader-in-Chief waved everybody to be silent and a pin drop silence prevailed. We were all ears lest we did not miss anything he would say.

“Friends! After a long battle finally we got Independence from the oppressive people last year,” he started addressing. “And now our youngest state is on the path of becoming not only a developed but a world class state.” (His speech was punctuated by slogan shouting from his supporters including us. Long live Leader! Opposition down, down! All shouted).

“Our state is home to several castes and communities,” he continued. “But the Muslims of the state are in pathetic condition. Since we got independence from the British, several governments came and went but they never cared about the Muslim minorities though they captured power promising their welfare.”

“But in this new state, this kind of injustice won’t be done. Therefore, to end years of injustice, our government has decided to give them 30 per cent reservation in education and government jobs so that they can perform to the best of their abilities in their respective fields and play a role in the growth of the state.” (Again we all shouted Long live Leader! Opposition down, down!).

While he was speaking, a minister standing beside him protested, “Sir, their population in the State is only 15 per cent. How can you give them a quota more than their population?”

“I know, I know. I know more than you about this fact,” pat came the answer from the Leader-in-Chief.  He said, “If we do not find Muslim men and women filling the positions in government offices and seats in colleges, we will import the people of the community from other states.”

We were on cloud nine. We thought the hard work of years was bearing fruit now.  We congratulated each other and also thanked the Leader-in-Chief for his courage and big-hearted announcement.

III

After this event, in fact, on the ground, no action pertaining to this announcement was taken. Whenever we approached officials, they would only say, “no order in this regard has come, when we receive the order we will tell you.” 

On the other hand, the state government’s recruitment process continued unabated. While applying for jobs we quoted the Leader-in-Chief’s announcement with date and venue and paper clippings attached, officials would give a roar of laughter, and say, “Go and ask him. We do not know about it.”

Gradually, all positions were filled and again we were given a raw deal. As happened in the past, we were cheated again.

Days flew by and our new state grew in leaps and bounds and it led all states in the country in development from villages to urban areas and we watched all these happening standing at the margin.

Unfortunately, the facilities that we had in the past were also lost in the new regime. The expectations we had from the new state and the government turned into disappointed. Our cup of patience was brimming with anger and gloom.

Our condition was like that of a woman, who had been deserted by the man she loves but approaches the same person with a hope may he accept her again though she knows the answer very well. 

Once again we decided to question our Leader why he raised hopes among the Muslims and played with their emotions. There was a huge crowd of people who had converged to express their gratitude to their beloved leader who had fulfilled their aspirations.

There were farmers, fishermen, milkmen, dairy farmers, and aged people, among many, many others. We were surprised to see our barber there. He told us that the state government reduced the barber shop electricity tariff by from Rs 5 per unit to Rs 2 and giving loans on very nominal interest. Also, there were Imams of mosques who were given Rs 1,000 and Rs. 200 worth clothes during the month of Ramzan and a promise of monthly emoluments, and there were many other people who were benefitted from the schemes of the state government.

In such a crowd of well-wishers, we were the odd men out. All were laughing and savoring the moment and enjoying the goodies served there. We were glum and dejected.  

Soon the Leader-in-Chief emerged amid sloganeering by his followers and visitors. They crowded him.  He was simply at home as if all were his friends. He was overwhelmed by the response of people. He was seeing fulfillment in every eye.

Meanwhile, some old ladies started worshiping him and sang hymns in praise of him, while others tried to do palabhishekam (bath with milk) as he had raised their old-age pensions, extended financial help to pregnant women, etc. 

We also waved our hands and tried to have a handshake with him but his supporters, who had sensed our anger, pushed us to the corner of the lawn. When we tried to move a little forward to be close to him, the policemen on duty grab us by the scruff of our neck and pushed us aside warning, “don’t budge an inch otherwise we will beat you.”

Soon, a series of speeches were made by the representatives in praise of the Leader. They all sang hosannas of the Leader for giving them what no previous governments had provided in Independent India. Even the Imams of mosques thanked the Leader and asked the Muslims to vote for the Leader’s party. 

“Friends!,” the Leader started speaking. “I am overwhelmed by your support and love. To see you people smiling and happy for what we had struggled for a separate State.” (His speech was interrupted by slogan shouting from people. Long live Leader in Chief! Opposition down, down!). He made many promises for future if he was voted to power again.

The Leader-in-Chief spoke for more than half-an-hour but there was no mention of Muslim reservation in his speech. He spoke about farm loans, pensions and many other things but our ears were deaf to all those things. All of us were extremely dejected.

Some of us lost control and started shouting incoherently. Before they could articulate their feelings they were thrashed thoroughly and were thrown out by the Leader’s supporters. Amid sloganeering, the Leader announced the dissolution of the Stat Assembly and thus slamming the door on us for any hope.

At last, disappointed and dejected we decided to return to our homes. At the very moment emerged from the crowd a senior man with grey hair but sharp eyes. His personality was speaking volumes about sagacity and rich experiences. He said, “O Muslims! Go home. You are after something that you can never get. Giving reservation means giving a share in power. And nobody wants to share power with you.”     

(The author is a journalist based in Hyderabad; works as a Senior Sub-Editor with The Hans India newspaper) 

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