“Caste is not Exclusive to Hindus Alone”
“Islam is uncompromisingly egalitarian, but social structure of the Muslim society betrays caste-like stratification, linkages with occupation and inequalities:” - P. S. Krishnan
A two-day seminar on ‘Reservation for Muslims in India – A step towards Inclusive Development’ held at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) urged the need for enhancement of reservation for Muslims in order to ensure inclusive growth and rejected the plea that reservation on the basis of religion ran counter to the spirit of the Constitution.
The seminar held under the aegis of Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) on March 19 and 20, is likely to release the Hyderabad Declaration shortly, highlighting the basis and modalities for reservation discussed at the Seminar by participants drawn from across the country.
The seminar was inaugurated by Mr. P. S. Krishnan, Advisor to the Government of Andhra Pradesh and presided by Prof. Mohammad Miyan, vice chancellor, MANUU.
Presented below are excerpts from speeches made, and papers presented by participants:
Dr. Faizan Mustafa, Keynote Address, Vice Chancellor, National Law University, Cuttack
The whole idea of the Constitution is to have rule of the law. The various institutions of the State are supposed to have separate jurisdiction and one should not dominate the other. In a democracy, majority may abuse the power and therefore checks and balances have been provided in order that it does not take advantage of the numbers.
Muslims did not demand reservation under the broader policy of affirmative action in the decades immediately after the Partition and Independence as they were undergoing depression and carried the guilt feeling. In the subsequent two decades, identity issues such as character of Aligarh Muslim University, Muslim Personal Law and Urdu preoccupied them. They did not demand social justice, equality and reservation. It is only after a host of Government appointed committees, commissions and panels highlighted their plight, that their backwardness came to be quantified. Gopal Singh Committee recommended three to four percent reservation for Muslims in class three and four category employees. High Power Committee headed by Justice Sachar though did not recommend reservation, but highlighted the fact that the Muslims had become neo-Dalits of India. Subsequently, Ranganath Mishra Commission recommended that Muslims should be given 10 per cent reservation and another five per cent may be given for other minorities.
My reading of the Constitution reveals that if religion is proscribed, even caste is an equally forbidden territory. Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution state that the State shall not discriminate on the basis of religion, caste, gender, race or place of residence. Let us bear in mind that Indian secularism is all about managing of religious and cultural diversity and is not a negation of religion. It is only after 40 years that Muslims are asking their share in the national cake. What Muslims are asking is that how do we manage the diversity and ensure quality. Cultural equality is integral to the concept of inclusion.
It will be fallacious to look at Muslims as a monolithic community. Muslims do have caste. If scheduled castes and tribes are religion-specific, then the reservation should not be denied to Muslims on the basis of religion. A better strategy would to include more and more Muslim caste in the OBC category. Let us not allow communalists to destroy the cause altogether. Since Hindu counterparts of certain caste are getting reservation, then the Muslim caste pursuing the same occupation also deserve to be included in the reservation category. We also need to look at the word ‘fraternity’ in the preamble of the constitution. It is where we need to be concerned about how denial of equality would destroy the social harmony.
P. S. Krishnan, IAS Retd
Advisor to the Government of Andhra Pradesh
It is a misconception that caste system is exclusive to Hindus. Even before Independence, certain castes or communities of Muslims have always been included in the BC lists along with Hindu and Christian backward castes. This continued after 1947 too when National level Kalelkar (1953-54) and Mandal (1979-80) Commissions identified the BCs of Sikhs and Buddhists. They were only recognizing the social reality.
It is basically wrong to say that reservation for BCs of Muslims is not justifiable because Islam does not recognize caste. It stems from the inability to distinguish between the ideology of a religion and the social structure, social system, social stratification and social inequalities prevailing among people. Islam may be uncompromisingly egalitarian, but the social system within Muslim society is based on various social and economic factors. J. H. Hutton, the scholarly Census Commissioner of 1931 had observed: Caste was in the air and neither the followers of Islam nor of Christianity could escape the infection caste. Even the change of religion could not destroy the caste system, for Muslims who no longer recognise it as valid are found to observe it in practice and there are many Muslim castes as well as Hindus. The dichotomy between the egalitarian social ideology of Islam and the existence of a caste-like stratification with hierarchy, linkages with a traditional occupation and endogamy in Muslims society in India has been noticed by numerous scholars. It is also erroneous to think that carving out a quote for Muslims mean snatching out something from the Hindus. Let us be reminded that it has been given to all Backward Classes irrespective of religion. The identified BCs of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs are as much entitled to their share of the 27% as the identified Hindu BCs.
Prof. Zoya Hasan
Dean, School of Social Sciences, JNU, Delhi
It will be better for us to demand reservation for minorities as a category. I favour broad based affirmative action, not merely reservation. Backwardness and under representation are two different aspects. Majority of Muslims are suffering from deprivation, are extremely poor. It goes beyond caste. There is no agreement among Muslims on what could be the basis for reservation for them. It involves more substantive issues. There is a shift among Muslims in discourse from identity to development.
Prof. P. L. Vishweshwer Rao
Head, Dept of Mass communication and Journalism, MANUU
Study after scientific study has shown that a majority of Muslims are backward in terms of education, income and so on because they continue to be victimized by the caste system although their forefathers changed their religion. Discrimination brought about and perpetuated by the deeply entrenched caste system continues to haunt them. Therefore it is fair that in the interest of social justice, reservation is accorded to them both at the state and the central level. Caste is a social disease whose roots have gone so deep that religion has not been a strong enough remedy to destroy them. Not only Government jobs, I will plead for reservation for all underprivileged section even in the private sector jobs because 90 per cent of the utilized land, finance and other resources belong to the people and the government.
Prof. Muzaffar Assadi
Dept of Political Science, Mysore University
The Constituent Assembly too debated reservation for Muslims. The Mandal Commission identified OBCs among Muslims. The Sachar committee’s finding too are on the same lines. In Karnataka, the debate on the issue has become a part of socio-economic backwardness rather than historical injustice to the categories. Muslims have also become part of these two issues. This is the reason why Muslims have become part of the larger social coalition. They are categorized under two different categories. Under Category I, some of the backward castes among Muslims are identified and secondly they are categorized in IIB category which is largely socio-economic category.
Asst. Professor, CSSEIP, Bharathidasan University, Trichy
The TMMK has risen as a new force representing the Muslims in Tamil Nadu. Started in 1995, it redefined the Muslim agenda and by shifting the Muslim votes from one alliance to another in the successive elections, it has shown that it represents their aspirations. It was only because of them that the DMK government accorded the community 3.5 per cent reservations in educational institutions and jobs. This has resulted in at least 70 poor Muslims students becoming doctors and another 3,000 getting engineering degrees every year in the state.
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Karnataka (or Old Mysore State ) had introduced reservation for BCs as early as 1886. It was enhanced in 1916 on the recommendation of the Miller Commission. This enraged the Brahmin Dewan, M. Vishveshwariah so much that he resigned from the post. Karnataka had as much as 69% reservation prior to Supreme court fixing a cap of 50%. Muslims were given exclusive 4% in 1994 under the chief ministership of Veerappa Moily. Before this, several Muslim caste groups had been included in the Group I category too. Karnataka took several other initiatives like liberally sanctioning professional colleges from 1983 onwards and making it mandatory to have a woman, a Dalit and a member of the Minority community in all the selection/recruiting committees. But simultaneously, Muslims were also proactive in the state. Today, Muslims own hundreds of professional educational institutions. Bangalore has nearly 400 Muslim run high schools.
We need to urge the Government of India that an overall cap of 50% on the reservations should be removed. The reservations should now be to the tune of 70% with 9% being reserved exclusively for Muslims. Data shows that Christian and Sikhs are already overrepresented in the jobs. So let us not shy away from making reservation for Muslims alone, not all minorities. The power elite in the country takes the 50% cap as something sacrosanct. It is not. The country is ruled by the Parliament, not by the Supreme Court. So Parliament can always upturn what the Supreme Court says. Let that 9% be divided into two categories equally between General Muslims and caste groupings among Muslims. The current 4.5 % is all likely to be taken away by South Indian Christians, mainly from Tamil Nadu and Kerala who are better educated than even Brahmins. Besides, some Muslim groups such as Siddis in Karnataka, Meos in Haryana and Bakarwals in Kashmir could be grouped under the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
Dr. Abdul Waheed
Dept. of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University
The policy of reservation draws its legitimacy from the constitutional principle of social justice and aims at inclusion of excluded groups. The Constitution lays down provision for positive discrimination for historically marginalized communities SCs, STs and OBCs, but the Constitution does not define any of the category, identified for the benefit of reservation. One of the most important base for reservation is the interpretation of the word ‘class’. The expression, Backward Classes in Article 16 is caste and religion neutral. According to the Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, while Article 15 and 16 states that “while articles 15 and 16 empower the state to make special provision for backward classes, they prohibit discrimination only on the ground of caste or religion”. Therefore, any caste or religious group or ‘minorities’, if socially and educationally backward, may come under the ambit of ‘backward’ classes and are thus entitled for reservation benefit.
Others who participated in the seminar included Dr. K. M. Sajad Ibrahim from Dept. of Political Science, University of Kerala; Karimullah, associate fellow, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Delhi; Dr. Islamuddin, Reader, Urdu Arts College, Hyderabad; Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir, advocate, Hyderabad; Dr. Suneetha, Directory, Anveshi, Hyderabad: Kancha Iliah, Director, CSSEIP, MANUU; Dr. Syed Najiullah, Assistant professor, MANUU, P. H. Mohamad, CSSEIP, MANUU; Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed Patel, Associate Professor in Education; Prof. S. N. Tripathy, professor of economics, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.