THE High Court’s decision to reject the ten per cent Muslim reservation has given a chance to Mamata Banerjee to make a course correction from the previous CPM governments’ communal politics. The Calcutta High Court order passed on July 8, which had directed the West Bengal Government to reconsider the previous CPM government’s decision to reserve ten per cent government jobs for backward Muslims, saying the move was initiated in ‘haste’ has been widely welcomed. As Muslims had backed Mamata Banerjee in the Assembly polls, a move to scrap the quota could prove to be difficult for her. The CPM’s decision was a clear violation of the Constitution.
Acting on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Amal Chandra Das in February challenging the constitutional validity of the Left Front government’s decision to categorise Other Backward Classes (OBCs) by bringing 49 classes of Muslims under a newly created “more backward classes” net to reserve ten per cent government jobs for them, a division bench of Chief Justice JN Patel and justice Ashim Kumar Roy passed the above mentioned order.
Immediately, after filing of the PIL, advocate Amal Chandra Das started receiving ‘threatening telephone calls’ and anonymous letters saying if he pursued with the case he would have to face ‘dire consequences’. This is the mood prevailing among the Muslims of the State. Trinamool sources said Muslims had played a major role in bringing the party to power in the Assembly elections. The Congress-Trinamool alliance had won more than 90 of the 125 seats with a high minority concentration. “It will be difficult for Mamata to scrap the quota, particularly because of the huge support we got from the minority communities,” a Trinamool leader said.
Last month, the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had declared the government’s decision to give recognition to 10,000 Khariji Madrasas. Even the Left Front Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee did not dare to take this decision. The reason was very simple. The Intelligence Department of the State government had time and again reported to the State authorities that these madrasas (Khariji Madrasas) are working as breeding centres of terrorists. The report further said that trainers used to come from Bangladesh and the total focus of their training was against India. All types of arms training were given to the young Muslims drawn from not only West Bengal, but also from other parts of India and even from Bangladesh. Buddhadeb was annoyed after going through the intelligence reports and ultimately he had dropped the idea of recognising those madrasas.
Now coming to the present case, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government had initiated the move to reserve ten per cent jobs for backward Muslims in February 2010. According to the petition of advocate Das, between March 8, 2010 and September 24, 2010, the Left government had included 42 new classes in the OBC list. Of these, 41 belonged to Muslim community.
The petitioner submitted that within 16 years span, from 1994 to 2010, the West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes included a total 66 communities within the list of other backward classes of which 12 were from the Muslim community. Das submitted in his petition that later the commission included another 42 classes of which 41 are Muslims, within a span of seven months, between March and September 2010.
Das pointed out that the State government claimed that inclusion was done on the basis of a survey.But the final report of the survey is still awaited. The government didn’t wait for the final report and announced ten per cent reservation for backward Muslims in State services. The Chief Justice JN Patel asked State advocate-general Anindya Mitra to ‘enlighten’ the court about the new government’s stand on the issue. Mitra sought a month’s time.
Earlier, Bengal had a seven per cent quota in government jobs for the OBCs. But with the addition of this ten per cent exclusive reservation for the backward Muslims, the OBC quota has gone up to 17 per cent. CPM State secretariat member Mohammed Salim kept up the pressure on the government, saying, “It is now for the new government to either defend the ten per cent quota or succumb. It is a question of its political will”.
Let’s see how Mamata sorts this problem out.