By N. Krishna
THE electorally-motivated generosity of power-hungry politicians in Andhra Pradesh has received a well-deserved rebuff from the High Court, which has quashed the state government'sorder providing for 5 per cent reservation to Muslims in education and jobs.
The ruling Congress, dispenser of benefits at the cost of the long-suppressed Hindu community in the former Hyderabad state, now stands unmasked. In the wake of the High Court verdict, there is now a strong consensus in official and non-official circles that reservation should be provided only on socio-economic basis and not on religious grounds.
What the Nizam, the accepted head of the Muslims, failed to achieve at the cost of the politically disabled and economically-crippled Hindu community, was sought to be accomplished by the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. The haste with which the newly formed government issued the reservation order surprised the intelligentsia. The bid to ride roughshod over the majority community exposes the lengths to which the Congress party is prepared to go to preserve its Muslim vote-bank. Communal vote-banks should have no place in a democracy. Many more national parties are forging and enlarging the vote-banks, unmindful of the harm they are causing to the democratic polity.
Having won power by making many promises, some of them blatantly indefensible, the Rajasekhara Reddy government is now bound to implement the High Court directive with sincerity and alacrity. What has happened in Andhra Pradesh is a classic example of more haste, less speed. No wonder some Muslim leaders have ridiculed the government for its feigned disappointment at the judicial verdict.
Those who want reservations for the Muslims in the name of religion would do well to brush up their knowledge on the recent history of Hyderabad. When the Government of India Act of 1935 conceded provincial autonomy in British India, a similar demand was made in the Indian states. In 1937, the Nizam dilatorily set up a Reforms Committee with a view to associating different interests of the state with his government. Progressive Hindus and Muslims joined hands to call for a convention. Intriguingly, the Muslims, who constituted 13 per cent of the state'spopulation, wanted 50 per cent representation. As no answer in the affirmative was forthcoming, the Muslim members withdrew from the convention. This 50:50 communal ratio became a constitutional problem for the Nizam and his advisors till the end of the old regime.
In the meanwhile, Mohammea Ali Jinnah stepped in and, in his capacity as leader of the Muslim League, delivered the ultimatum that the Hindu majority of 87 per cent in Hyderabad should be reduced to a statutory minority.
And what was the socio-economic condition of the majority Hindus in the erstwhile Hyderabad state? A formidable source of the Nizam'spower was his position as the head of the Muslim community and dispenser of official favours. The members of the aristocracy had to depend upon him for their official status. The officials of the state, 75 per cent of whom were Muslims, were aggressively communal. The police and military comprised of 95 per cent Muslims.
The rural areas contained 95 per cent of Hindu population. After two centuries of cruel subjection, the Hindus in the state had over the period developed an underdog mentality. In this connection it would be advisable for the votaries of vote-banks to read some of the insightful observations made by K.M. Munshi when he was Agent General of the Indian Government in Hyderabad before the police action of 1948. He says, in his book, The End of an Era: ?It (the underdog mentality) was found even in the ranks of the highly educated. None of them dared to point a finger at the Nizam or the Muslim officers or at the Muslims as a community. They had developed protective colours like the chameleon to secure official favours.?
While this was so on the economic front, the Majlis-i-Ittehad-ul-Mussalmeen hatched up a stratagem to convert Hindus to Islam with the sole object of reducing the Hindu majority. This move had the blessings of the Nizam. What was more, the Hindus were also prvented from building or repairing temples where the Muslims resided. The suppression of the majority community in the 1920s and 1930s reminds one of what the Muslim rulers did to the Hindu community in many other parts of India during the medieval period. The inference is clear: So far as the Hindus were concerned, the medieval period in Indian history ended in Hyderabad only in 1948, after the belated police action.
It is a fact that there is widespread poverty among Muslims. But this is not something peculiar only to that community. After Hyderabad'saccession to the Indian Union, large numbers of affluent Muslims migrated to Pakistan, making the pockets of poverty among the Muslims more visible. With this exodus, many prosperous-looking localities in Hyderabad, especially in the old city, became desolate.
Concessions to poor Muslims are unobjectionable. But what should not be lost sight of is the monumental institutionalised injustice done to the Hindu community in the past under the Nizam. The unabated appeasement of the minorities has already given rise to divisive tendencies in India. The economic criterion should be substituted with religion-based concessions. The Congress party in Andhra Pradesh is trifling with the interests and feelings of the Hindu community, which is right now in the process of emancipating itself from the quagmire of backwardness caused by centuries of Muslim tyranny.
The competitive patronage to garner votes must end. The responsibility for this Gargantuan task devolves on the judiciary. The High Court verdict in Andhra Pradesh should be an eye-opener for short-sighted politicians of all hues.When the Government of India Act of 1935 conceded provincial autonomy in British India, a similar demand was made in the Indian states. In 1937, the Nizam dilatorily set up a Reforms Committee with a view to associating different interests of the state with his government.
(The author is a freelance journalist and Visiting Lecturer in Journalism, Bhavan'sCollege, Hyderabad.)