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Shahabuddin felicitated in Washington DC

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On June 19, the Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM) hosted a well-attended dinner reception in Washington DC for Syed Shahabuddin, one of the most senior leaders of the Muslim community in India. In his address to the audience, Syed Shahabuddin struck an optimistic tone for the future prospects of Muslims in India, underlining the fact that finally Muslims are waking up to assert themselves and are prepared to work hard for the results. The following are some major points made by him in his address.

  • The last few years have seen a significant political awakening in the Muslim community in various regions of India. Muslims are now holding rallies in various regions of India demanding from the political parties that they implement specific development programs to correct the extraordinary educational and socio-economic backwardness of the community. Rallies are being held in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where such events were not held before. With elections coming up in West Bengal and Bihar, Muslims have become vocal with slogans like "No reservation for us, no vote from us". They are now asserting with the secular parties that just maintaining a secular polity is not enough; they have to bring about development schemes focused on their very backward community.
  • The tabling of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report in the last session of the Parliament gives them hope that soon this report that recommends some affirmative action program to provide preference in educational institutions and government employment to Muslims and other minorities, will see some implementation, although it is an uphill political struggle, because for 60 years all political parties have taken them for granted.
  • Since the release of the Sachar Committee report two years ago, the government has started implementing one of its many recommendations, that is, it has started giving scholarships to a large number of Muslim students to help them acquire college education. This is a good sign. Muslims have to build on it for further help from the government. Muslims are demanding that the government build many more schools in Muslim majority localities in cities and villages across the country.
  • Indian Muslims are optimistic that as India’s economic growth continues there will be a place for them in it in the near future. For the first time an Indian Prime Minister made a public statement that Muslims have first stake in the opportunities in the nation.
  • In the 2004 election Muslims worked to support UPA without setting any proior conditions on them.
  • Now more and more political parties, CPI/CPM in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu, BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh are openly talking about the possibility of implementing the Mishra Commission report to provide reservation for Muslims in education and government employment.
  • The representation of Muslims in the Parliament and state assemblies is very low. Now some Muslim activists have started demanding a reservation for Muslims in legislatures. This shows that finally after years of being submissive and at the mercy of others in the political arena, Muslims are now asserting themselves.
  • A major problem is that in constituecies where Muslims have good population, all parties set up Muslim candidates; that causes fights between Muslim candidates and the division of Muslim vote. A way mut be found to avoid this situation.
  • Syed Shahabuddin urged NRI Muslims in the US to be active in providing development in the field of education in Muslim majority localities in cities and in Muslim majority villages.

Kaleem Kawaja, Washington DC

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2010 on page no. 17

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