Case for Backward Muslims

Published in the 16-31 Dec 2004 print edition of MG


By Ashfaq Husain Ansari, ex-MP

"Reservation for Muslims of backwardness and discrimination" is the caption of the article of my learned academician friend Prof. Iqbal Ahmad Ansari that appeared in The Milli Gazette dated 1-15 November 2004. The learned Professor has dealt at length with different aspects of reservation with reference to Mandal Report, The Supreme Court nine judges Constitution bench historic Judgement, and justice Venkat Challiah's NCRWC Report. Since in his article he has honoured me by taking my name at four or five places I am morally bound to elucidate my point of view so that there may not be any misunderstanding. Before going into little details I would like to make it clear that interpretation of a Report or Constitution itself differs from individual to individual. It is general practice of the honourable judges of the bench, high court or supreme court, to concur or dissent to the same judgement. Even Mandal Commission Report incorporates a dissent report and even in the Nine Judges Supreme Court historic judgement, Justices S R Pandian and P B Sawant had differed on many points but concurred on the main Judgement, while Dr. T.K. Thommen, Kuldeep Singh and R.M. Sahai honourable judges dissented by their separate judgements. A common man and an ordinary person like me cannot dare to "expose the ignorance" of a learned academician. Para 83 of the Supreme Court Judgement on Mandal Report which he quoted is part of the Judgement of Justice Pandian one of the concurring judges which reads as under:

"83. True the caste system is predominantly known in Hindu society and runs through the entire fabric of the social structure. Therefore, The Caste Criterion cannot be divested from the other established and a greed criteria in identifying and ascertaining the backward classes."

Prof. Ansari's case is "Though the bulk of the present-day Indian Muslims is of indigenous origin, who continued to suffer deprivation after joining the Muslim fold owing to continuity of their low esteemed occupation after independence." He further states that "this bulk alongwith the Indian Muslims of non-indigenous origin has been collectively facing the disadvantages of discrimination, exclusion and even periodic violence for their being bearers of common Muslim religious identity irrespective of their, class, occupation, biradari, sect, and regional linguistic ethnic variations". No body can differ from what he calls his case but where one differs is that "Muslims of indigenous origin suffer from deprivation after joining the Muslim fold owing to the continuity of their low esteemed occupation." This bulk is what Mandal and our Constitution call" socially backward". Most of this section of socially backward Muslims are also educationally and economically backward, and for this socially and educationally and economically backward section of Minorities NCRWC Report has dealt in detail which I need not quote here because I have already quoted them earlier in Andhra Muslim reservation and rejoinder to Syed Shahabuddin. My case is that so far reservation of Muslims under socially and educationally deprived category whom Prof. Ansari categorised "Muslims of indigenous origin" should only be the beneficiaries of OBC reservation. The other Muslims whom Prof. Ansari categorised as "non-indigenous Muslims (He tries to avoid the use of word Ashraf, Ajlaf and Arzal because he understands, the meaning of these words in depth) are part of Muslim community no doubt and "They along with the bulk of indigenous origin of Muslims have been collectively facing the disadvantages of discrimination and even periodic violence. But only bulk of the Indian Muslims of indigenous origin who are socially and educationally backward deserve the OBC advantages and not the "non indigenous Muslims" who are in other words called Ashraf.

About Andhra Muslim reservation GO No 33, which the Andhra High Court rightly negated, Prof. Ansari poses that he has not expressed any opinion but if one goes through his article minutely he has expressed his opinion for reservation to all Muslims in Andhra Pradesh. In the name of his "academic, not political interest" he "expresses the opinion that extending the benefit to all Muslims of the State of A.P was constitutionally valid". The Andhra High Court has rightly directed the A.P. Government to constitute and refer the issue before the Andhra Pradesh Backward Classes Commission, which is presently not functioning in the state for more than two years, and this Commission is the right constitutional authority to decide which section of the community is socially and educationally backward. The Supreme Court Judgement in Para 92 very clearly mentioned in the case of Tamil Nadu that even if a community whose 94.61 % of population is included in the backward list could not be entitle the whole community for inclusion in the backward list. Para 92 reads as follows:

"92. As per the statistics given in the Report of the Second Backward Classes Commission in Tamil Nadu out of 27,05,960 people belonging to Muslim minorities 25,60,195 are included in the list which works out to 94.61% of the total Muslim population of the State. Similarly, among Christians, out of 31,91,988 of the total population 25,48,148 are included in the backward list which works out to 79.83%."

It is not my case that Prof. Iqbal A. Ansari is "insensitive to the grossly neglected lot of historically deprived backward classes of Muslims". No doubt he may be "the first to raise the demand from the Minorities Council forum for allocation of 6% reservation for Muslim backward classes under the Mandal Scheme". Now let us examine the "Mandal Scheme". My academician friend Prof. Ansari's demand for 6% reservation for the Muslim backwards contradicts the Mandal Scheme itself. According to Mandal Commission derived statistics 52% is the total population of OBCs belonging to all communities and religious groups. Out of this 52%, 8.40% is the population of all non-Hindu OBC's which includes besides Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others. Mandal scheme recommends only 27% reservation for all OBCs. thus out of 52% only 27% reservation is recommended and allowed by the Supreme Court. The simple arithmetical calculation is that only 27% reservation is allowed out of 52% OBC population then the percentage for 8.40 would come to 4.36% and this 4.36% includes all non-Hindu OBCs. Through this arithmetical calculation after deducting the percentage of non-Muslims from 4.36%, the Muslim OBCs derived figure would be below 4%. I do not know how Prof. Iqbal Ahmad Ansari's Minority Council demanded 6% reservation for OBC Muslims under Mandal Scheme. Politicians have demanded 8.44% and even 10% reservation but an academician should not (see Syed Shahabuddins demand for 10% Muslim reservation out of 8.5% Muslim population of Andhra Pradesh).

Before concluding I would like to put in my own humble way that Muslim minority is facing two separate problems, one is social and educational backwardness of the bulk of the present day Indian Muslims of indigenous origin. The other problem is of discrimination faced by all Muslims, irrespective of indigenous and non-indigenous categories. Muslim intellectuals, academicians and politicians should deal with both the problems separately.

Muslims of the non-indigenous category who are generally known as Ashraf should not demand their "pound of flesh" reserved for the bulk of indigenous Muslims who are generally called Ajlaf and Arzal. The leadership of the Muslim community at present is in the hands of Ashraf Muslims in political, social and administrative fields. They should fight for their OBC brethren who are in fact socially, educationally, politically and administratively under-represented in all fields. Instead of demanding their share out of the "pound of flesh" reserved for socially and educationally backward section of the Muslims, they should rather fight for their indigenous brethern's cause as per recommendations of the NCRWC and also the directives of the Constitution of India. Their backward brethern will not fail to come forward and fight for any benefit provided by the Constitution and recommended by NCRWC and also the recommendations of (now forgotten) Dr. Gopal Singh High Power Committee's report. Dr. Gopal Singh Committee recommended important measures to the government for all weaker sections particularly minorities sans reservation but it could not be placed even on the table of Parliament as yet.

Prof. Ansari is very much hopeful with the 'announcement by the UPA Government for the proposed Commission of what he called "on Backwardness for the minorities demand which had been persistently raised by the Minorities Council". But he knows well that it all depends under which article of the constitution it is going to be formed and what are its terms of reference. Besides all this the proposed Commission will not take away the reservation benefits already provided to the bulk Muslims of indigenous origin.

Ashfaq Husain Ansari, ex-MP


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