Letter to Justice Rajinder Sachar - Psmanda and Dalit Muslims

"Old is Gold". So true. The folowing article is compretively old but i thought is worth sharing here with everyone.

The Letter..


To: Justice Rajinder Sachar
Chairperson, Prime Minister's High Level Committee For Preparation of Report on the Social Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India

Through this humble submission we would like to bring before you the situation of the Pasmanda (Backward Caste) and Dalit Muslims who suffer extreme marginalisation and oppression not only within Muslim society but also in the wider society. Indeed, they are looked down upon and suffer a social stigma closely comparable to that of the Hindu Dalits, a much deeper socio-economic disability than the Hindu Dalits and the extremely Backward Caste communities. Several of them have similar caste names as Hindu Dalits and Backward Caste communities and are engaged in the lowliest occupations such as scavenging and washing of clothes. But they are deprived of the Scheduled Caste facilities as are available to the Dalits among other communities.

Through a government Act (1935) Muslims Dalits were offered the facilities of reservation together with other Dalits. Unfortunately, the same was withdrawn by a Government Ordinance of the Honorable President of India in 1950.This was indeed a set back to the Dalit Muslims and was based on the wrong notions about the absence of discrimination among the Muslims and Christians. This is not true and fair to the judgment.

The Bihar Legislature was the first in the country to have recommended to the federal Government for the reservations for the Dalit Muslims in the year 2000. However, there is a conspiracy to consider the issue of reservation considering the entire Muslim community as a homogeneous mass. This would be a retrograde step and would go against the agenda of empowering the Dalits. This will help only the economically and socially upper castes among the Muslims.

You are well aware of the precarious conditions of the different Backward Caste and Dalit Muslim communities engaged in various traditional vocations like weaving, vegetable vending, block printing, stitching and entertainment. Because of the onslaught of globalization and wrong government economic policies such traditional caste groups are facing extinction and decay. You are also aware of the several cases of suicide that have been reported in the case of these communities because of crushing and growing poverty. Many of the People are living through nefarious means of survival including scandalous sale of blood and even sale of their children. This does not go well with the spirit of justice and equity. The Parliament and State Assemblies do not feel uncomfortable with such situations, as there is seldom a debate around such issues where as precious time is wasted on trivial issues. This represents the insignificance of such issues for them, which are relegated to the margin. Yet another reason is the total absence of representatives belonging to such communities.

Our key concerns:

1. Dalit Muslims should be given the benefits of reservation and other privileges as Scheduled Castes in the State Legislature

2. People in the whole of the country furnish fabricated caste certificates and get into government jobs reserved for the marginalized and oppressed castes. Census based on caste might put an end to the corrupt practice of fabricating caste certificates

3. The alternative to Multi-Nationals and New Economic Policy is to give people a new means of livelihood. It is very sad to note that among those who get license to export vegetables and fruits there is not even one from the community of those who have made cultivation as their profession. Similar things are going on with the other Backward Caste Muslim communities too.

4. The situation of the Muslims, who are weavers, cultivators, tailors, washer-men, butchers, barbers, and such many artisans and professionals, is day-by-day becoming worse. The government must take proper steps to check this.

5. The onslaught of globalization is being acutely felt by the Indian industries. The loom owners need and demand continuous supply of electricity where as large amount of electricity is being consumed by the elites for their comforts and lavish living. There has to be assured supply of electricity to the sector on priority. The electricity has to be subsidized.

6. Poor law and order and indifferent government policy are crushing entrepreneurs in cities like Bhadohi, deprived of the basic infrastructure support like roads, electricity, and air link, or other cities like Varanasi (famous for its Banarasi saris) and Mau (famous for its handlooms), witnessing flight of people to other urban centers as they are not able to run their enterprises properly because of lack of infrastructure. Differential purchasing policy in Bihar is being systematically flouted and the government departments are making purchases from the mills. This deprives the looms and the local industry of economic opportunities.

7. The small village-based vocational groups accessing credit requirements through co-operatives which have suffered from serious mismanagement, nepotism and corruption. Some dominant groups have usurped the rights and privileges of the cooperatives and the poor entrepreneurs have been relegated to the margins. This needs to be seriously looked in to.

8. The Bihar State Handloom and handicraft corporation have become a hotbed of corruption and political interference. As referring to points 6-7, this also needs to be looked into.

9. Many traditional groups like weavers, fruit and vegetable growers and traders in the poor Backward Caste Muslim Kunjaras cannot compete with capital rich traders and businessmen who are using their resources to run businesses using modern terms of trade.

10. The removal of barriers on the import of hosiery is proving a deterrent to the small time tailors, many of whom belong to the Backward Muslim Darzi and Ansari castes.

11. The Pasmanda Cates in Bihar are covered, by and large, under Annexure I of the Other Backward Caste list and they have not to compete with dominant ruling castes. In UP and at the central level they (the Pasmandas) are clubbed together with the dominant castes under backward category. For example the Pasmandas in UP have to compete with the other powerful OBC communities. There is a need to rationalize reservation policies on the lie of Bihar in U.P and at the Central level. Otherwise reservation exclusively for the Muslim OBCs should be provided for.

12. In many states the major industry after agriculture and looms, is bidi making. This industry has been placed among the hazardous industries for health reasons but all the projects for the welfare of those involved in it, whether it is of the state or central government, remain on paper only.

13. For promoting the education and health of the Pasmanda Muslims, new projects are necessary. The Dalit and Pasmanda Muslims are totally ignored in the construction of houses under Indira Awas Yojna and distribution of Red Ration Cards. The quota for this must be decided and it must be followed strictly.

14. Steps should be taken to put an end to caste system among Muslims and encourage inter-caste marriages. Islam gives equal status to women. This must be put into practice.

15. We would not appreciate any external interference with the Muslim Personal Law. This does not mean that by accepting certain fundamentals, we are not against certain necessary changes according to the present day circumstances. Even in many Islamic nations, such changes have been introduced.

16. The Indian Constitution has given the right to minority communities to run their educational institutions. But they, in no way, can go against the policy of reservation. In most of such institutions, all over the country, it is the upper class that has an upper hand. For these people, engineering colleges, medical colleges and other such institutions are place to make money in the name of donation while appointing the teaching and non-teaching staff as well as taking admission of students. Strong steps should be taken against such institutions.

17. Just as among the Savarna Hindus, so, too, among the forward Muslims there are poor people. There is no provision in the Indian Constitution for reservation based on economic backwardness, but for such poor people there should be separate economic development policies.

18. People look at Urdu as the language of Muslims, which is a great disservice to Urdu. The Madrasas should be oriented more scientifically and job oriented. Urdu language should be given the status of second national language and Urdu translators should be appointed in each department from the Block level to state level and up to the central government.

Ali Anwar
President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz


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