Travesty of Social Justice

The Curious Case of the Inclusion of Upper Caste Syed ‘Mallicks’ in Bihar Backward Classes List


ASHOK YADAV & KHALID ANIS ANSARI


It must, however, be noted that while Muslim masses are exceptionally hard pressed, the Muslims are not a totally 'depressed' community. There are large numbers of Muslim landlords and semi-capitalistic farmers (beneficiaries upto-medium-scale politically of the Green Revolution), merchants and industrialists, who dominate the Muslim community as the bulwark of reactionary forces within it, and often serve as agents of the Congress and other bourgeois-landlord parties (Habib, Khan, & Singh, 1976, p. 68).


Thus, one can discern three groups among Muslims: (1) those without any social disabilities, the ashrafs; (2) those equivalent to Hindu OBCs, the ajlafs, and (3) those equivalent to Hindu SCs, the arzals. Those who are referred to as Muslim OBCs combine (2) and (3) (Rajindar Sachar et al, 2006, p. 193).


The two extracts reproduced above—one from the vantage point of ‘class’ and articulated by the Marxist historians from the Aligarh School and the other based on ‘caste’ and drawn from the Sachar Committee Report—indicate clearly that the entire Muslim community cannot be conceived as a backward class in India. Rather, as is the case with any other religious community obtained in India the Muslims too are a differentiated community and informed by variegated levels of marginalization. In the context of social policy caste has emerged as a major factor for determining the social backwardness of a group (including religious minorities) for purposes of affirmative action under the rubric Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (OBCs). In this context, Sachar Committee’s observations that the ashraf sections within the Muslim community, as opposed to the pasmanda muslims (OBC and Dalit Muslims), are ‘without any social disabilities’ is instructive. Despite this many spokespersons of Muslim politics, often informed by the interests of the upper caste Muslims, have demanded that all the Muslims be brought within the ambit of reservations in India. Quite clearly such a move will be benefitting the ashraf Muslims as they will corner a large proportion of employment and educational opportunities thus opened owing to their cultural capital. A related move by upper caste Muslim sections has been to negotiate with the dominant political powers and sneak into the existing OBC list. In our view both these moves are a travesty of social justice politics and must be contested by all democratic citizens and movements in this country.


In this context the inclusion of upper caste Syed Mallicks in the Backward Classes list (Annexure II) in Bihar by Nitish Kumar government in 2008, in a bid to appease the Muslim leadership and dilute the Saffron charge against himself due to his alliance with the right wing BJP, must be strongly interrogated. Especially, when the Mallicks who claim themselves to be the descendents of Syed Ibrahim Biya Mallick, the military chief of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, have managed to get approval from the Union Cabinet on recommendations from National Commission for Backward Classes for inclusion in the Central OBC list on June 2, 2011. We think this has been an unacceptable move by the institutions concerned as by no stretch of imagination can the Mallicks be considered an OBC group. All historical and sociological data that are presently available reveal without any doubt that they are an upper caste and prosperous Muslim group [See: Mallick Family; Mallick Tanzeem, 2008; Ahmed, 2009] and so must be immediately ejected from the Bihar State Backward Classes list and, moreover, no further action must be taken with respect to the notification pending in the Social Justice Ministry to include them in Central OBC list.


In fact, when Nitish Kumar led NDA government of Bihar included mallicks in BC category one respected commentator, himself belonging to the mallick community, vehemently opposed this move(Ahmed, 2009). The article that he circulated at that point of time establishes beyond doubt that the mallicks are a socially, educationally and economically advanced group. In fact, the first Chief Minister of Bihar, after elections were held by the British government in 1937, was Mohammad Younus, a mallick by caste and an owner of a bank and a railway line. The British held Census also upheld the status of mallicks as belonging to the privileged ashraf category within Muslims. During Partition many rich mallicks migrated to Pakistan and Bangladesh and rose to eminent positions there in military, bureaucracy and literary fields. The mallick diaspora scattered mainly in Gulf countries and USA is well-networked and emotionally attached to their roots in Bihar. There is no dearth of educated middle class among the mallicks.


However, despite these glaring facts a few notorious sections within the mallick community had been making consistent efforts for slipping into the BC list of Bihar since the 1990s. In fact, the State Commission of Backward Classes of Bihar (henceforth, SCBC) had rejected the application of mallicks for inclusion in BC list in 1999, and had appropriately conveyed the same to the government then headed by Laloo-Rabri Yadav. In this respect the SCBC had carried out field surveys and had found that the literacy rate in mallick dominated villages was around 90% and that most of the houses were pucca. It also found that the mallicks enjoyed the same social status as other Muslim upper castes like syeds,sheikhs and pathans. The mallicks were mainly found occupied in agriculture, services and business, and, moreover, they usually abstained from working in the field themselves and hired field laborers from other lower castes to get their agricultural work done. SCBC report also produced a litany of historical sources that suggested that mallicks and syeds were not different. The report also indicated at the fraudulence and slyness of the mallicks when it noted that in the photocopies of the historical sources that they submitted the word ‘syed’ was deleted for obvious reasons. Interestingly, while the applicants claimed that they were a socially exploited section, yet they also made the statement that no case of atrocities committed against them was pending in any court of law. As we know, the caste system is based on hereditary division of labor. Every backward caste has a certain caste occupation. But in the case of mallicks the applicant failed to name any specific caste occupation of theirs. In view of the overwhelming weight of evidence against them the commission appropriately rejected their claim(State Backward Class Commission of Bihar, 1999).


Yet, the rejection of their move in 1999 did not dampen the spirit of these sections of the mallick community. They soon found an opportunity when Nitish Kumar assumed the charge of Bihar in 2005. In the ecstasy of toppling the fifteen years long regime of Laloo Yadav, Nitish fell victim to historical amnesia and conveniently forgot that more than any other social group it were the lower caste pasmanda muslims who having shifted their allegiance from Laloo to Nitish had made his dream of becoming the CM of Bihar a reality. Moreover, he was actively hunting for new constituencies and was eager to demonstrate that despite being in alliance with the BJP he was secular and not anti-Muslim. The mallicks exploited these political infirmities of Nitish Kumar. They once again knocked the SCBC, only this time more stealthily. After having learnt a few lessons from their past failure, this time they posed themselves as telis (oil pressers), after Teli Malik’s of Uttar Pradesh with which they had no sociological or historical similarity. Thus, through fraudulent means they were able to contrive a caste occupation for themselves.


As per the procedures the SCBC again undertook field surveys in the mallick dominated villages of Bihar. However, the SCBC had to write in the report that their claim of being oil pressers was wrong and could not be maintained. Yet, this time the SCBC, throwing all norms to the fire, instead of rejecting not only accepted the application but also recommended to the state government that the mallicks be included in the state BC list. No reference was made to the previous report of the SCBC on the same issue. The present SCBC report is also an exercise in falsehood. It has reported that as per procedure the advertisements and news to seek public opinion on the matter were sent to local newspapers, radio, television channels, etc. However, the SCBC has not mentioned any date of any newspaper for publication of the same in the report (State Backward Classes Commission of Bihar, 2008). Interestingly, the Imarat-e-Sharia, Bihar, which is a prominent religious body of Muslims and is expected to rise above partisan considerations, too became a party to this crime when its General Secretary wrote a congratulatory letter to Nitish Kumar for including the mallicks into the BC list and requested him to include the remaining three Muslims castes (i.e. Sheikh, Syed and Pathan) in the BC list as well (Qasmi, 2008). This letter by a key functionary of Imarat-e-Shariah also reveals the distorted notions of social justice that this organization holds and also foregrounds the upper-caste content of most prominent Muslim religious organizations (Ali, 2010).


Subsequently, the backward class Hindu and Muslim sections have protested against the move to include the mallicks in the BC list (IANS, 2008; Yadav, 2008). Petitions were submitted in the SCBC for this purpose but it yielded no results. However, the sporadic protests continued. The tenure of all the members of the SCBC, except the Chairman, who were instrumental in including the mallicks in the BC list, has now ended. New members have taken charge. Very recently, emboldened by the success of the mallicks in entering the BC list, the upper caste Sheikh Muslims also made attempts and submitted an application before the SCBC. However, this time the rank and file of the backward caste Hindu and Muslim organizations was vigilant enough and they jointly protested against this move (AIPMM, 2010; Das, 2010; Rai, 2010). Consequently, their petition was rejected by the SCBC after due verification (Bihar State Backward Classes Commission, 2011). Also, the case of mallicks has been reopened recently by the SCBC after sustained protests by OBC Muslim and Hindu groups. So when on June 2, 2011 the Union Cabinet has taken the decision to include the mallicks in the Central OBC list, scores of petitions against the inclusion of mallicks in BC list in Bihar by both Hindu and Muslim OBC organizations have already been filed before the SCBC. The SCBC has also held some rounds of hearing on this issue from June 1 to June 3, 2011.


Hence, it is imperative that the Social Justice Ministry in the Centre should withhold its notification on the same and wait for the decision of the SCBC on this issue. Otherwise it will be a big mockery of social justice. The horizontal solidarity between Hindu and Muslim OBC groups is growing and translating fast into political action as their joint protests against the inclusion of sheikhs and mallicks in BC list indicates. The Congress Party and JD (U) must stop appeasing the Muslim ashraf castes now and take the concerns of pasmanda muslims seriously, not only because that is just in the context of social policy on affirmative action but also because that may affect the political fortunes of these parties drastically in the very near future, especially in UP where Congress is trying to regain lost ground and where JD (U) will be entering for the first time in 2012 assembly elections.



[Ashok Yadav is a social commentator based in Patna (Bihar) and Khalid Anis Ansari is a social researcher based in New Delhi. They can be reached at ashokyadav@gmail.com and khalidanisansari@gmail.com.]

Works Cited


Ahmed, S. (2009, March 31). Divide And Rule: Bihar Government’s Latest Strategy on Muslims. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://www.pasmandamuslims.com/2009/03/divide-and-rule-bihar-governments.html


AIPMM. (2010). CORRESPONDENCE: Pasmanda Mahaz (Salim Parvez faction) to Bihar BC Commision protesting deliberations on reservations for upper caste ‘Sheikh’ Muslims. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in:http://pluralism.in/2011/02/pasmanda-mahaz-salim-parvez-faction-letter-of-protest-on-sheikh-issue/


Ali, M. (2010, August 31). Bihar: Protests and politics over OBC status to “Ashraf Muslims”. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from TwoCircles.net: http://twocircles.net/2010aug30/bihar_protests_and_politics_over_obc_status_ashraf_muslims.html


Bihar State Backward Classes Commission. (2011). Bihar State Backward Classes Resolution: Rejecting the Demand of Reservations for Muslim Upper Caste ‘Sheikhs’. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in: http://pluralism.in/2011/02/bihar-state-backward-classes-resolution-on-reservations-for-muslim-upper-caste-sheikhs/


Das, K. (2010). CORRESPONDENCE: An Extremely Backward Caste (EBC) organisation to Bihar BC Commission opposing reservations for upper caste ‘Sheikh’ Muslims. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in:http://pluralism.in/2011/02/letter-from-a-backward-caste-organisation-to-bihar-bc-commission-opposing-reservations-for-sheikh-muslims/


Habib, I., Khan, I. A., & Singh, K. P. (1976). Problems of the Muslim Minority in India. Social Scientist , 4 (11), 67-72.

IANS. (2008). Withdraw Mallick Muslims from Bihar’s backward caste list. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in:http://pluralism.in/2011/02/%E2%80%98withdraw-mallick-muslims-from-bihar%E2%80%99s-backward-caste-list%E2%80%99/


Mallick Family. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://sites.google.com/site/mallickfamily/Home


Mallick Tanzeem. (2008, August 20). History of Ibrahim Mallick Baya (Ra). Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://www.mallicktanzeem.com/: http://www.mallicktanzeem.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=2


Qasmi, A. R. (2008). CORRESPONDENCE: Imarat-e-Shariah to Nitish Kumar demanding inclusion of Upper Caste Muslims in OBC List of Bihar. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in: http://pluralism.in/2011/02/imarat-e-shariah-letter-on-inclusion-of-upper-caste-muslims-in-obc-list-in-bihar/?s=imarat-e-shariah


Rai, U. C. (2010). CORRESPONDENCE: Triveni Sangh to Bihar State BC Commission Protesting the deliberations on Reservations for Upper Caste Muslim ‘Sheikhs’. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in: http://pluralism.in/2011/02/triveni-sanghs-letter-on-the-sheikh-issue/


Rajindar Sachar et al. (2006). Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India: A Report.Government of India, Prime Minister's High Level Committee, Cabinet Secretariat .


State Backward Class Commission of Bihar. (1999). Recommendations to the Bihar Government for not including Mallick Muslims in BC list. Patna.


State Backward Classes Commission of Bihar. (2008). Recommendations to the Bihar Government for Including Mallick Muslims in BC List. Patna.


Yadav, A. (2008). Question of reservation for ‘Mallicks’: State Government should Rethink (in Devnagari). Retrieved June 4, 2011, from pluralism.in: http://pluralism.in/wp-content/user_uploaded_content/2011/02/Yadav-Sawal-Malikon-ke-Arakshan-ka.pdf

5 comments

  1. Your first line is disproved by sachar commitee report that muslim communities educational status is much lower than SC/ST. The so called pasmanda muslims are led by ashraf ansaris descendents of Hazrat ayub ansari. Its real travesty of justice right from 1947.Muslims are mixed ashraf ajlaf and arzal community, as few came to india in milatary expedition but mixed with populations six hundred of year back.There are few people calling themselves pasmanda but are trying to maintain monoply on muslim OBC reservations.Mallicks are descendants of ibrahim mallick biya with descendants consisting 10% of present population but 90 % are oil erchats or telis with lineage of vast migration to west pakistan. and many remained in india after 1947.Origin of ansaris are from khwarij, hazrat ayub ansari read with reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansari_(nisbat) if mallicks are denied reservations ashraf ansaris should also considered illegitimate in the share of reservations for OBC muslims.

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  2. Khalid Anis AnsariJune 7, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    Mr. Fasih: Gone are the days when the 'mallicks' could snatch away lands from illiterate people by fraudulent means and by suffocating them in debt traps. Now at least, the lower caste Muslims have a small middle class population which can articulate its concerns and expose the frauds committed by the powerful Muslim groups. At least, you should have the courage to cite correctly. Why was it convenient for you ignore the following link, may I ask?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momin_Ansari

    But I will soon write on this process of 'ashrafization' (parallel of 'sanskritization' in Hindus) where the lower caste Muslims started to imitate the upper caste 'ashraf' sections by adopting new surnames (ansari, salmani, idrisi, quraishi, mansoori, saifi, etc.) and manufacturing an 'arab' origin for themselves around 1880s. This was done to gain some respectability and various other factors. But that does not make them an 'upper caste' group. But I will soon write on the construction of these mythologies and genealogies.

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  3. Mr Khalid anis ansari, At british period only few mallicks of origin of syed ibrahim mallick was a landlord. The landord has to collect a tax of an area if he doesnot pay, landlord was jailed. There was no illtreatment if the person doesnot pay tax landlord has to report and solution was annexation of property. These things are highly misreported. tThe majorty of mallicks were oil erchats not a landlords. As for the ansari community a pasmanda and their leaders are ansars of medina, in india they reside mostly in uttar pradesh and bihar. The majority of momin ansari are the real backward class non- ashrafs deserving reservations. The ashrafs among pasmanda has to be excluded in ansaris and mallicks to make reservation a fair business.The ashraf ansaris are the creamy layers in ansari community and have earned reservation under barb of momin ansari. So its better to judge the backwardness on the basis of economic status OR BPL(Below Poverty line) among muslims as mosty of the namely ashrafs are much backward in education and economic aspect then ansaris.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansari_(nisbat)

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  4. Khalid Anis AnsariJune 8, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Thanks you all for the very interesting and amusing comments. Since the comments are on expected lines and the debate will probably not go anywhere I will quit by just articulating a few quick points:

    a) All solidarities (national, religious, caste, tribal, etc.) are ultimately political. Any discourse on ‘unity’ is informed by the interests of the concerned social sections. There is nothing ‘natural’ about any political unity. In this context, the discourse of Muslim unity or Hindu unity is premised on preserving the interests of the Muslim and Hindu upper castes. The pasmanda do not need to divide the Muslims: they are already divided into more than 90 castes in India. The ‘pasmanda’ as a political community will decide which unity will work for them. In this context they have challenged the vertical unity on religious lines and have started working on forming horizontal solidarity of all lower caste sections irrespective of their religious location, as exemplified by the slogan ‘dalit-pichda ek samaan, Hindu ho ya Musalman’. This solidarity will also contest the politics of communalism as the lower caste Muslims and Hindus have been often used as foot-soldiers for the political ambitions of upper caste Hindus and Muslims who are instrumental in fomenting communal riots and reproducing a communal discourse to preserve their class-caste interests. Ultimately, it is not about dividing an already divided community but about preserving and promoting the interests of pasmanda sections by increasing their representation in employment and education and by rescuing everyone from the clutches of communal violence, which is nothing but an instrument employed by upper castes to put the lower castes in their place and manage their political assertion.

    b) This blanket assertion that Sachar Committee has articulated that the condition of Muslims is worse than SC/STs is one of biggest political fictions of our times. It is only in a few indicators that it has suggested so and in a few other indicators it has also held that the condition of Muslims is better than SC/STs. Moreover, it is slightly problematic to compare Muslims (religion) with SCs/STs (caste/tribe): it is just like comparing apples with oranges. The only valid comparison would be to compare ashraf Muslims with savarna Hindus, OBC Muslims with OBC Hindus and dalit/tribal Muslims with ‘Hindu’ SCs/STs. So, the alarming data regarding Muslims has more to do with the extremely depressed conditions of the OBC and Dalit Muslims than the community as a whole. For instance, if we take the case of political representation of Muslims, then we find that out of 7500 members from the first to fourteenth Lok Sabha only about 400 members belonged to the Muslim community. Out of these 400 members, only 60 have been OBC/Dalit Muslims. Hence, the representation of ashraf Muslims in Lok Sabha works out to 4.5% that is way beyond their actual population which is only 2.1% (15% of present Indian Muslim population of around 13.4%). So the ashraf Muslims are not only adequately represented but doubly represented in political power. This discussion of 'total Muslim backwardness' only goes on to invisibilize the privileged nature of the ashraf sections of the Muslim community. If Sachar Committee had been vigilant enough to include caste as a factor within Muslims in its basic research methodology then we would have had revealing figures in the context of education, industry, employment and this myth of total Muslim backwardness that is now being hegemonically circulated would have been comfortably buried.

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  5. Khalid Anis AnsariJune 8, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    c) Yes, there is a parallel Muslim varnashrama often legitimized by Muslim ulema themselves in historical time. Masood Alam Falahi’s book will be helpful here.
    d) Ashraf, ajlaf and arzal are a collection of castes and not economic categories primarily. So when a saifi does well in life he does not become an ashraf, just like Dr. Ambedkar did not become a savarna after becoming the law minister.

    e) Also, reservations are not premised on poverty alleviation, but on representation of all sections in power with respect to their proportion in population. There is no country in the world where affirmative action is premised on ‘class’ or economic status. Everywhere it is ‘identities’ (race, gender, caste, ethnicity), that are suppressed and under-represented, that are the key element in affirmative action policy. In India Narsimha Rao proposed 10% reservations for poor sections belonging to upper castes but this was appropriately rejected by the Supreme Court in 1993. For removing poverty the governments usually resort to various other welfare programmes. Reservations are only aimed at the proper representation of all groups within society.

    f) It is only those ‘ansaris’ who have a historical association with the profession of ‘weaving’ that can in principle avail of the benefit of reservations. They are enlisted as momin, julaha or momin ansar in government lists. Any other section or individuals, even when they use the surname ansari, are not entitled to the benefits of affirmative action. For instance, the present Vice-President Mr. Hamid Ansari uses the title Ansari but does not have a historical or present association with weaving and so is outside the ambit of reservation.

    g) Even then if anyone feels that the momin ansars are well represented in the government machinery then one should present a case and persuade the government to eject them out. For instance, in Bihar the momins are around 25% of the Bihari Muslim population (the unofficial estimates are higher). The Bihari Muslim population is about 16.5% of total Bihar population. That means the population of momins is about 4% of total Bihar population. We also know that in Bihar the representation of Muslims is about 6% in government jobs. So the burden of various commentators on my piece is to demonstrate that the momins have captured 4% of these 6% jobs (about 67% of total jobs for Muslims) represented by Muslims of Bihar. If that is the case then the momins should surrender their right to affirmative action and the government should ensure that. And, I will support any such move because that will be just in my view.

    Many thanks for bearing with my views.

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