Social Justice and ‘Minority’ Institutions

An Open Letter to the President Ms. Pratibha Patil

The last two decades in Indian democracy have witnessed wider acknowledgement and interrogation of the disproportionate hegemony of upper castes in the structures of power. Quite clearly such overt domination of a few elite oligarchic caste groups in decision making processes runs against the pluralist and democratic ambitions of the Indian Constitution. The persistence of such trends does not augur well for the future of this nation.

The legitimacy of the category of caste in non-Hindu (minority) communities is now officially established. The inclusion of 82 Muslim caste groups in the OBC list of the Mandal Commission Report in 1990 was a watershed event in this context. The presence of caste in Muslim community is also reaffirmed by the recent Sachhar Committee Report and the report of the Ranganath Mishra Commission on Linguistic Minorities.

Moreover, apart from the official recognition there is a strong movement among the dalit/backward caste Muslims that is gaining ground in North India (especially UP and Bihar). The movement is called the ‘Pasmanda Movement’ and it is articulating the anxiety and anger of the Pasmanda Muslim sections over their blatant social exclusion. It must be borne in mind that the Pasmanda Muslims (dalit/backward caste Muslims; also called ajlaf and arzal) constitute about 75% of the Indian Muslim population (the remaining 25% is formed by the upper caste ashraf Muslims). The politics of numeric should itself suffice to suggest that their claims can not be taken lightly. The marginalisation of Pasmanda Muslims from state and community-controlle d institutions is an issue that perhaps needs to be urgently addressed.

In this context, the recent reports about the selection process of the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the Jamia Milia Islamiya University (JMI), New Delhi have once again disappointed the Pasmanda Muslim sections. In historical terms, ‘Muslim’ institutions like AMU and JMI have exhibited strong rigidity in accommodating persons from non-ashraf social locations as VC’s. If the claims of the Pasmanda Movement are true then not even a single VC in these institutions has been appointed from the Pasmanda Muslim communities since Independence (Mr. Hamid Ansari, the former VC of AMU who is usually taken to be a Pasmanda Muslim arguably comes from an ashraf family). Quite clearly the empanelment process of the Vice Chancellor in these two institutions is a strong testimony to such prejudices.

Recently, a ‘Search Committee’ (comprising Justice Saghir Ahmed, Syed Hamid and Prof. Yashpal) constituted a panel of five persons for the Vice Chancellorship of JMI (see: The Indian Express, New Delhi edition, 12 June 2009) and submitted it to the President (visitor to the University). The panel includes Mr. Afzal Amanullah, Prof. Mushirul Hasan, Prof. Faizan Ahmad, Mr. Najeeb Jung and Mr. Mohd Shakeel Ahmad. While two members in the panel are academics, the rest are bureaucrats. Remarkably, neither the search committee nor the panel includes even a single name from non-ashraf Muslim communities!

There are credible reports that an IAS officer from the UP cadre Mr. Anis Ansari, who also comes from a Pasmanda biradari, did offer his CV for the purpose. Moreover, having served as Secretary Agriculture and as Agricultural Production Controller (APC) of UP twice he did have the experience of managing and dealing with the affairs of higher education (including the prestigious Pantnagar Agriculture University). Besides, he has also served at the level of Additional Chief Secretary of UP and has held key positions in the departments of Rural Development, Industry and Urban Development etc. Yet his name was not deemed fit to be even mentioned in the panel of five. What is more remarkable is the fact that all the other bureaucrats favoured over him are either junior to him or had dissociated themselves from public service by taking voluntary retirement from the IAS way back (Mr. Najeeb Jung and Mr. Mohd Shakeel Ahmad). The selection process of the panel clearly underlines the strong and deeply entrenched prejudice against the Pasmanda Muslim communities. Afterall, what explains this anomaly and elision if not caste discrimination of the worst order?

What is even more intriguing is that India, a nation of one billion people, is so deficient in human resources that a man in his 80’s, and with all the problems that old age brings, is allowed to play arbitrary and decisive roles in the affairs of ‘Muslim’ institutions in particular and the affairs of the Muslim community in general. Moreover, this particular person is highly distrusted by the Pasmanda sections of Muslims and his prejudices against a particular region are more than evident. He, in the capacity of AMU-VC, outrageously denied admissions to many students of Bihar. The aggregate of marks awarded by Bihar School Exam Board were supposed by him to be unduly inflated and hence he initiated the practice of deducting 5% marks from the aggregate while preparing the merit list for admissions to 11th standard in AMU.

Let us reiterate that all these events are being monitored with anxious curiosity by the Pasmanda Muslim sections and all democratic citizens of this country. This is high time that the process of democratisation is initiated in ‘Muslim’ institutions and other structures of power. The Search Committee, the Executive Council and other such bodies of JMI, AMU et cetera must be made socially representative.

In this respect, the appointment of the VC for JMI forms the acid test for Indian democracy and the commitment of the government of the day to the issues of social justice and social exclusion. The anger and frustration is brewing in Pasmanda Muslim communities over these repeated acts and instances of their structural marginalisation.

We, therefore, request the President Ms. Pratibha Patil to look into this matter and do the need-some. Moreover, we urge her to reinitiate the process of empanelment for the VC of JMI so as to ensure greater transparency and address the anomalies in the present panel convincingly. We sincerely hope that she will consider the sentiments of the huge Pasmanda Muslim masses before arriving at a suitable decision.

'Pasmanda Intellectuals' Forum, New Delhi

3 comments

  1. Sahil Alam, DelhiJune 15, 2009 at 10:39 AM

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  2. Dear All,

    ASK,

    The appointment of VC is a very serious and crucial issue for JMI and at the same time withholding a qualified and experienced IAS Officer like Mr. Anis Ansari in one corner and avoiding considering him even for the post of Search Committee reveals the strong biasness.

    I believe that all Dalit/OBCs Muslim Forum should constitute a body before selection in any minorities’ institutions/Organisations and suggest the names of qualified and experienced personalities from Dalit/OBCs. There are numbers of qualified and experienced individuals who can easily accommodate these posts but not even a single effort has been made to bring them into power so far. Dalit/OBC Muslims should be given their due share in every minority institution and Muslim Organisation not based on the caste but based on their qualification.

    Few people argue that selection process should be completely based on experience and qualification and it should not be based on caste and creed. Do they mean to say only upper caste people are qualified and experienced people? If we will look around we will find many well qualified and experienced academicians and officers from OBC Muslims but they are totally neglected at the time of sharing power and Muslims made them believe that only 5% of the elite group can carry the responsibility of Muslim leadership.

    There is anger among Dalit/OBC Muslims pertaining to this upper caste chauvinism and sooner or later they will rebel and come on street to stop long lasting unfairness and discrimination against them. Dalit/OBCs Forum should pressurize state govt. as well as central govt. to give OBC and Dalit their due representation in every minority institution as per their population which is no less than 75% of the total Muslims population. This is the only way we can stop discrimination and bring justice to all section of Muslims community.

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  3. Dear All,

    ASK,

    ・ The status of educational qualification of Mr. Anis Ansari can be assessed by the fact that he secured all India 2nd Rank in the most prestigious IAS examination.

    ・ He was all qualified and competent to reach the post of Additional Chief Secretary, UP and to be empanelled in the Additional Secretary, Govt. of India.

    ・ He has been known and awarded for his wonderful work on Urdu poetry.

    ・ He even has an LLM degree to his credit, and shall have a PhD in his hand hopefully in a month or so. The IAS officers empanelled in JMI VC can hardly touch the level of his accomplishments.

    ・ He is one of those very few officers who have never faced any corruption charges.

    ・ Though all his achievements are overweighed and become negligible before his “caste”.

    ・ Ironically, those who boost about working for public in the panel, are mostly those who took voluntary retirement or let’s day ran from the very service of public.

    ・ An ‘ashraf’ because by the virtue of his birth has the right to be empanelled twice, but a ‘pasmanda’ by so called misfortune of his birth is not even considered fit for the panel.

    ・ The question of Syed Hamid’s discrimination against Bihari’s in AMU admission policy still is unanswered. Still, surprisingly, he is included in the search committee.

    ・ A notable fact is that Mr. Nasim Ahmad, the former VC of AMU 2002-07, hailing from the same batch as of Anis Ansari's and holding a lower rank in the merit list, could manage to become AMU’s VC, but not a deserving Anis Ansari.

    ・ May be the arguments now be turned towards analyzing the indices of measuring the ability of an IAS officer to be empanelled as the VC of JMI.

    It will be appreciative, if people supporting the current selection can study the facts and figures on the number of OBC/Dalits who have been appointed as VC or Registrar for any Minority institution like AMU, JMI, Usmani University etc. It won’t be surprising of the result of their representation in these so called minorities institutions are negligible.
    This is for sure no co-incidence. The conspiracy against all OBC/Dalit Muslims to keep them corner forever is as clear as water.

    Does Ashrafiya Community have the sole right to bear all qualified and capable people who can represent such institutions? Hopefully this side of the picture presented by me will result in some sort of social justice

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