The contents of Sacchar Committee were leaked much before its? formal submission to the government and became a subject matter of heated public debate. Lot of concern was expressed over dismal presence of Muslims in government jobs and demand was made to correct the existing imbalance by extending the benefit of job reservation to the Muslims as a community on the line of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Surely those who are making the demand for job reservation must be aware that the Constitution of India unequivocally bars any reservation on the basis of religion. Only recently in the case of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional position and struck down religion based reservation. Secondly I do not know if these advocates of reservation are aware of the fact that more than 10 Muslim communities are part of the Scheduled Tribes and 83 Muslim communities are included in the list of socially and educationally backward entitled to benefits of reservation. Together they constitute more than 70 percent of total Muslim population leaving out only the Muslim creamy layer. The data collected by Sacchar committee only shows that owing to lack of modern education even the provision of reservation has not been able to raise the Muslim numbers in government jobs.
Now envisage a scenario where notwithstanding the constitutional bar against reservation on the basis of religion, Muslims are recognised as backward and benefit of reservation is extended to them as one unit. This will mean inclusion of creamy layer which in the first instance will go against the direction of Supreme Court and then will make things even more difficult for really depressed sections of Muslims to compete against the Muslim creamy layer when today they find it hard to secure a fair share for themselves while competing against the depressed sections of other religious denominations. The organisations working for the welfare of depressed Muslim communities have already voiced their opposition to any such move.
The problem of Muslim backwardness and under representation in public services is a fact but this is not a problem of independent India. In 1878 Sir Syed had said that ?Muslims had derived least benefit from European sciences and literature? and in 1882 appearing before the Education Commission of the Central Legislative Council presented voluminous evidence to show almost negligible Muslim presence among the graduates of Calcutta University. According to his memo there was no Muslim among 6 Doctors of Law and 4 Honors in Law. Among the Bachelors and Licentiates of Law there were 8 out of 705 and 5 out 235 respectively. Likewise in Engineering and Medicine there was not a single Muslim graduate. In MA there were 5 Muslims out of 326 and in BA there were only 30 out of 1343. The memo pointed out that based on the population covered by Calcutta University the number of Muslim graduates should have been 1262 whereas they actually were just 57. On the basis of these figures Sir Syed pleaded not for job reservation but government help in initiating programs for their educational betterment. It is worth noting that this memorandum was presented just 24 years after the formal collapse of uninterrupted Muslim rule for almost 800 years.
Before presenting these figures to the commission it was pointed out that ?in 1824 when Government decided to start a Sanskrit College in Calcutta, the Hindu leaders met under the leadership of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and demanded that they did not want Sanskrit College to be established by Government but wanted that it should start English colleges as far as possible. On the other hand in 1835, after 11 years when the Mohammedans came to know that Government intends to start English teaching in all schools, they submitted an application signed by 8000 Moulvis of Calcutta to stop it. Muslims vehemently opposed the new system of education believing that the philosophy and logic taught in English was at variance with the tenets of Islam. They looked upon the study of English as little less than embracing of Christianity.?
Later at the time of starting Committee for diffusion of knowledge among Muslims Sir Syed said ?it was a matter of deep regret that Muslims considered their religion which was so great and enlightened, weak enough to be endangered by the study of western literature and science.?
If after 1857, it was due to clergy'sopposition of English and modern education that pushed Muslims into backwardness, after 1937 the politics of Partition created a negative environment and produced certain prejudices that hampered an effective and meaningful Muslim participation in all walks of national life. The campaign launched by Muslim League after Partition to cajole and compel each and every Muslim officer in central secretariat to opt for Pakistan is part of recorded history. Muslim Officers who had decided to stay in India were threatened that their relatives in Pakistan would be dealt with harshly if they refused to migrate to Pakistan. It was in this backdrop that on 23 October 1947, Maulana Azad gave a stern warning and said ?There is no use recounting the events of past seven years, nor will it serve any good. Yet it must be stated that the debacle of Indian Muslims is the result of colossal blunders committed by Muslim League'smisguided leadership. Now that Indian politics has taken a new direction, there is no place in it for Muslim League.?
Those who are suggesting reservation of jobs do not realise that the remedy suggested will prove worse than disease. The remedy lies in compulsory universal education for every Indian child including the Muslims. The modern education alone can help in not only correcting the present imbalances but liberate Muslims from obscurantist clergy and communal politics. But a party in power that feels no compunction in using Muslim clergy for mobilising political support at the time of elections and goes to the extent of resuscitating the dead horse of Muslim League by including its nominee in central government can hardly be expected to take a long term view. They will use the occasion only to heighten the sense of insecurity and deprivation among Muslims and then expect the whole community to fall like a ripe fruit in their electoral kitty.