Analysis

Reservation for Muslims: a mirage

The new zeal with which Indian Muslim leaders are demanding reservation for the country's Muslim community particularly in government jobs is certainly a welcome move, but also one which requires a little more deliberation. Considering that it is not for the first time that this demand has been raised, one is tempted to be a little pessimistic on whether this time the voice will remain in the forefront till at least some results are achieved. The tragedy is that though Muslim leaders and other politicians have seldom refrained from raising their voice about issues concerning the country's largest minority community, its impact has largely been a limited one. The demand for reservation has, at the most, received some media coverage, encouraged discussions at meetings focused on this and at most secured some assurance/commitment from politicians on pursuing the same further. Not surprisingly, the Indian Muslim in the present age has practically ceased to pay much attention to the same issue. And why should she/he? Going by the pace with which progress is being made, even if some quota of reservation is formally chalked out for Muslims in the near future, by that time, today's Muslim youth would be too old to qualify even for that.
 
Need for new look: Let us accept it. Politically, it is imperative for concerned leaders and others to talk emphatically about the need for reservation for Muslims. Simply because the Muslim vote-bank in today's multi-party system is too significant to be ignored. Coming down, however, to hard-core reality, that too from the perspective of the Indian Muslim, all the noise being made about reservation remains a mirage just as it was yesterday and is likely to be in the coming days.

Certainly, this does not imply, that reservation-issue should be forgotten about. There is the need to take a new look at the entire reservation policy. It cannot be ignored that just as the Indian Hindus are divided into various groups, so are the Indian Muslims. While certain Hindu classes are categorically listed as those eligible for the reservation-quota, the line is not so clear for the Indian Muslims. Should all, irrespective of their social and economic status, be considered as backward classes and thus be accorded reservation? Or should reservation be allowed only for the socially and economically backward Muslims?

It is time perhaps for the Indian government to take a new look at the entire reservation policy. The policy has been in force for several decades for sections such as Scheduled Castes and Tribes of the Hindu community. A rudimentary analysis indicates that while the policy has helped the creamy layer move ahead, the deprived still remain fairly backward. In this context, it is essential for the government to categorically lay out measures which would ensure that quota system ensures development of the entire class and is not confined to be used only by the creamy layers. A similar programme of reservation may be outlined for the Indian Muslims too.

Options: At the same time, one must keep in mind that it may take years, even decades for a reservation policy concerning Muslims to actually reach the stage of being implemented. Undeniably, the ones talking about reservation are playing an extremely responsible role.   Nevertheless, the options of the reservation-demand being seriously considered and actually implemented in a short period may well be regarded as practically non-existent. This makes it all the more imperative for the concerned leaders to pay more attention to making other demands for development of the Muslim community. By and large, the average Indian Muslim has come to terms with the hard fact that his/her economic progress is primarily decided by his/her individual potential and not by government's reservation-quota. Thus, be it the field of education, sports, medicine, law, journalism, tailoring, motor-mechanics, carpentry, the film-industry and numerous other avenues, the Muslims have made their mark and are moving on further. In this context, it would be appropriate if the government paid a little more attention to opening more institutes of vocational training and professional courses in areas with considerable population of Muslims.

Certainly, the demand being made for reservation is totally justified and is needed. The concerned leaders should continue doing so till the demand is actually met formally. At the same time, some attention must be paid to raising other demands, particularly the ones which may not take long to be implemented and would go a long way in creating employment avenues for economically and socially backward Muslims. The need of the day is not to go by rhetoric or mirage-like commitments, but give stress to demanding time-oriented constructive measures, which would spell benefits for today's Muslim youth. Also, Muslim women must be included in demands being voiced at all levels, including reservation in jobs, politics and in vocational as well as other sectors. With the present government paying substantial attention to women's development, the Muslim leaders may succeed more if they started paying greater importance to demands for Muslim women!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2010 on page no. 14

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