No real option short of Mishra Commendations

The Minister of Minority Affairs has been hinting at the creation of a Sub-quota for the Muslim OBCs out of the 27 % Mandal Quota for OBC’s. Mandal had not laid down separate Sub-quota for OBCs of different religious communities or for major Backward classes. His calculation was based on the Census of 1981. Under his computation Muslim (other than STs) constituted 11.2 % of the national population while; the non-Hindu religious communities together came to 16.2 %. Mandal came to the conclusion that 52 % of the Hindu community other than SCs and STs, constitute OBC. Then it made an unwarranted assumption that the OBCs in other religious groups also constitute 52 % of their population. Leaving aside the forward Hindu castes and sub-communities, Mandal concluded that the Backward Hindu castes constituted 43.7% of the total national population. To this it added 8.4% (52 % of 16.2) for Non-Hindu religious groups & came to a total of 52% as the national population of OBCs. Then taking note of the Supreme Court ruling that total reservation should not exceed 50 % and the fact that the reservation for SC/STs already amounted to 22.5 %, Mandal recommended reservation of 27 % only for the OBCs, even though their population was almost twice this figure if not more while the SC/ST, the other Backward Classes, received full weightage for their population.

Under the Mandal dispensation the notional Sub quota for Muslims (minus other religious minorities) comes to only 2.91 %. This improves slightly if 2001 Census data is taken as the basis. Then it rises to 3.35%.

It is apprehended that the Government may offer the Muslim Community, in order to appease the rising demand for reservation, a share of about 3-4%! Needless to say this will not satisfy the Muslim OBCs, far less the Muslim Community, as a whole.

Reasons for Mandal’s Low Count of Muslim OBCs
The Mandal Commission has committed the serious error of assuming that the % of OBCs in the Muslim Community is the same as in the Hindu Community, i. e., 52%. This is historically, sociologically and occupationally inaccurate.

Firstly, there is no doubt that 90-95% of the Muslim Indians have descended from Hindu converts to Islam. But there were very few high caste converts among them; they largely came from the lower castes and the marginalized sections of the Hindu community. This implies that the proportion of OBCs among the Muslims must be higher than in the Hindu Community.

Secondly, the converts came disproportionately also from among the artisans and craftsmen. This also points in the same direction, i.e. higher proportion.

Thirdly, some Muslims who came from outside and claimed descent from the Prophet were recognized as Syeds; the Ulema Sufis, the traders and soldiers and their descendants (some by Hindu mother) were largely accommodated among the Ashraf. The few high-caste converts were accepted as Sheikhs and Pathans. The traders formed their own sub-communities like Khojas, Memons, Ismailis.

Fourthly, since the loss of political power the Muslim nobility and the landed gentry have been going down the economic ladder. They lost Zamindaris, Jagirs, Inams etc. They lost judicial, religious & executive employment opportunities with the advent of the British; their Awkaf came under encroachment as well as they were slowly alienated since Independence. As Sachar Report has pointed out, the Muslim community has gone down educationally, socially and economically & therefore the proportion of Backward Classes among them must have risen and become higher today than in 1947.

Fifthly Partition & migration of the well-to-do to Pakistan took its toll.

Taken together the proportion of Ashraf cannot exceed 10-15 % while under the Mandal assumption, the Ashraf will absurdly account for about 40 % of the Muslims, with 10 % as SC/ST and 50 % as OBCs! This is too high a count for the Ashraf.

The best estimate of ‘cast’ breakup among the Muslims is Ashraf 15%, Ajlaf 75% and Arzal (SC/ ST) 10%.The Sachar report has said that many Ajlaf & others who would be designated as OBCs have been left out. The best example is West Bengal where the Muslim OBCs account for 7 % and comprise of just 9 Muslim Sub-Group while on both sides, in Bihar and Assam, the Muslim OBCs’ are much higher in proportion. However, with awakening more Muslim Sub-groups are demanding and receiving inclusion in the OBC List. The CSSIO Reports show a constant from 34% in 1955 to 42% in 1961.

Backward Status of Muslim Community
It is no surprise that both the Sachar Committee and Mishra Commission have come to the conclusion that the Muslim community as a whole constitutes a Backward Class; it is almost as Backward as the Schedule Castes / Schedule Tribes and more Backward than the Non-Muslim OBCs.

The Sachar Committee has also pointed out on the basis of data it has collected that there is no substantial difference between the educational, social and economic status of those Muslim Sub-Communities which stand included among the OBCs and the others, in other words between the so-called Muslim Ashraf & Non-Ashraf!

Untenable Basis of 50 % Ceiling
Now, between 1981 & 2001 the ST / SC population has gone up to 24.4% and they are both demanding under the Constitutional provision a raise in their quotas. A number of the Hindu Castes & Sub-Castes among the OBCs’ & SCs’ are demanding desegregation & separate sub-quotas. Also a number of Forward Hindu Castes and Sub-Castes like the Marathas, the Jats, the Banias, even sections of the Brahmins and the Rajputs, are demanding recognition as OBCs.

A real problem thus arises due to fixation of reservation of maximum by the Supreme Court of 50 % for OBC’s/ SC’s/ST’s these demands, to meet rise in population well as demand for separate sub-quotas. However legitimate, they cannot be met unless quotas and sub-quotas are fixed in a scientific & not in an ad hoc manner, as they have been so far.

Needed for Caste Development Census
A Community Caste Development Census or a basis of uniform & easily accessible parameters would indicate the population as well as the levels of educational, social and economic backwardness of each Community/Sub Community/Caste/Sub Caste. The development parameters may also help determine the index of backwardness as compared to SC/STs & therefore give the weightage to the population in each case. This population multiplied by backwardness index can give the sub-quota due. The total of the sub quotas for the state or for the country would give the total additional reservation quota. By identifying backward groups known by different names in various states, on the basis of occupation the national sub-quotas/ quotas can be determined.

Revision of 50 % maximum
Therefore the Supreme Court ruling of maximum 50% has to be challenged on ground of irrelevance & irrationality. The Central Government has to move the Supreme Court to permit a State-specific maximum for reservation, because the number of Backward Classes and their levels of backwardness vary from state to state. This is the only way in which the OBCs quotas/Sub-quotas can be refixed. Some states have gone ahead & done this, as in Tamil Nadu.

Briefly, the notional Mandal Sub-Quota for Muslims will not satisfy the OBC Muslims and nothing short of 10 % quota for Muslims as a whole as recommended by the Mishra Commission, will satisfy the Community. The Community, should, therefore urge that the government move the Supreme Court to revise its 50 % ruling & at the same time ensure that the next Census in 2011 gives the population as well as backwardness parameters for every identifiable group/sub-group.

The government can then fix separate sub-quotas for each aggregated or major disaggregated Sub groups, as the case may be.

The alternative in the existing circumstances is for the government to adopt the Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or Kerala model. In each of the states a high proportion of Muslim community enjoys reservation though they are much less backward than in UP, West Bengal or Bihar. In Karnataka the Muslims are both counted among the OBCs on the basis of occupational parity and also enjoy a separate exclusive sub-quota as a community. Both in Tamil Nadu & Kerala almost the whole Muslim community is recognized as a backward class.

The other face of the problem is that a separate sub-quota for the Muslim OBC’s which exceeds the notional sub-quota under the Mandal, if separation is accepted, shall not be acceptable to the Hindu OBCs. The UPA Government may, however, play the political game of creating a rift in this manner between the Muslim OBCs & the Hindu OBC’s. This has to be guarded against both by Muslim & the Hindu OBC’s.

In order to sell its scheme of reservation to Muslims, the government will launch a propaganda campaign to misguide the Muslims, to divide them & to break the unity of the Backward Classes. Therefore it is essential for the Community to come to a consensus that its basic demand must be that the Government should implement the Mishra Report for the Muslim Community in general, and also place the Muslim Dalits in the SC lists at the Centre and in the States.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2010 on page no. 12

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