Women Reservation Bill vis-à-vis Muslim Women

Finally the decks have been cleared for the passage of Women Reservation Bill, providing for 33 % reservation of the seats for women in the Parliament and State legislatures. The controversial Bill had been hanging fire for the last 15 years, but now its enactment is almost sure because as a part of deep-rooted conspiracy to further reduce the Muslim representation, the Congress and BJP have developed as much bonhomie as to issue whips to their respective members.

While the concept of women empowerment is laudable, but in the absence of a separate proportionate quota for Muslim women, the measure in the Indian context can be seen as nothing other than to further weaken the Muslim community's representative character, and to stifle even those faint voices of Muslim members who sometimes make a feeble attempt to cut across the party lines against injustices to the community.

It may be remembered that in the Mandal Commission 27 % reservation was provided to the backward castes including those from amongst Muslims, but its maximum benefit is being reaped by Hindu backwards such as Ahirs, Lodhs and Kurmis because of their comparative higher potential and other extraneous considerations. Many Muslim organizations made tireless efforts to persuade successive governments in U.P. to provide 8.5% proportionate quota for Muslim backwards within the ambit of the 27% stipulated reservations. It is to be specifically clarified that this quota, according to the Supreme Court verdict, can be fixed through a simple government G.O.

In this context, the much-hailed Women Reservation Bill, considered as a gift on the occasion of International Women Day, is a ploy to turn  Parliament and state legislatures as a monopoly of some specific Hindu high castes, and will definitely prove a death-knell for the Muslims representative capacity which is already almost extinct.

Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani
Chairman, All India Muslim Forum, Lucknow
sherwanimk@yahoo. com