Congress dividing society with Muslim quota?
By Ravi Shanker Kapoor?
The recent controversy surrounding reservation for Muslims in jobs and education has once again underlined the limits of populism. While politicians are falling over each other to appease the largest religious minority, there are rumblings within the political class about the move.
The National Commission for Backward Classes is against the proposal to have sub-quota within the existing 27 per cent pie reserved for other backward classes (OBCs). According to the panel, such a move could be socially destabilising. The reality is that the OBC lobby, which is entrenched within the political system, is fearful of any shrinkage in the state largesse they receive in the name of their communities.
After Mandalisation of the polity in the 1990s, the OBC elite has not only zealously promoted their divisive policies with impunity but also imposed their retrograde agenda on the nation. A most blatant instance is the caste census—something that the founding fathers of the Indian Republic found odious. The irony is that while Hindu society is progressively bringing down the walls that kept various castes and communities apart, politics is trying to perpetuate the walls. However, as two negatives neutralise each other, the fanaticism of OBC politicians will make reservations for Muslims very difficult.’
Muslim leaders are working very hard, though. It is not just the traditional, orthodox sections of the community who are clamoring for quotas. The so-called moderate, English-speaking, urbane personages are also making a case for Muslim reservation. Union Law and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid recently demanded a separate quota of 6 per cent. In Lucknow to attend an event at a private college, he said: “In the next three months, the UPA government is likely to make an announcement. Officials are busy working out the final model and the quota will be within the existing 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs.”
A separate 8.4 per cent sub-quota will be earmarked for the minorities with six per cent share for Muslims, he added. “The reservations will be in central government jobs in accordance with the recommendations of the Sachar committee and the recommendations of the Rangnath Commission.” He went on to add that the model will be based on the existing models in Andhra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Then there is Wajahat Habibullah, chairperson, National Commission for Minorities, who says the same thing: “Just as there are backward classes among Hindus, there are backward classes among Muslims. Currently, Muslim OBCs are recognised among the existing OBC classes. The problem is there are many backward classes among Muslims that have not been recognised and listed. This needs to be sorted.’
What these worthies fail or refuse to acknowledge is the fact that birth-based reservations in India, as accepted by the original Constitution, were meant only for 10 years. Which means that the spirit of our Constitution is against quotas; they were tolerated rather than promoted. Further, even this temporary measure was meant for the benefit of communities, which had historically suffered because of social ills.
To extend the benefits for OBCs in the 1990s was bad enough; to do that for Muslims would be a travesty of fairness, equality, and justice. They were the ruling class for hundreds of years; it is not just the ruling families only benefited from Islamic rule; ordinary Muslims too did because they were not subject, among other things, to the detested Jaziya tax.
It is unfortunate that the Congress is vying with other parties in making a case of Muslim reservation. This only shows how duplicitous the grand old party has become. On November 14, it celebrated the birthday of the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with great fanfare. But it cynically ignores his views on reservation.
In a letter to Chief Ministers, dated June 27, 1961, Nehru wrote: “I have referred above to efficiency and to our getting out of our traditional roots. This necessitates our getting out of the old habit of reservations and particular privileges being given to this caste or that group. The recent meeting we held here at which the Chief Ministers were present to consider national integration, laid down that help should be given on economic considerations and not on caste. It is true that we are tied up with certain rules and conventions about helping the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. They deserve help, but even so I dislike any kind of reservation, more particularly in services. I react strongly against anything which leads to inefficiency and second-rate standards. I want my country to be a first class country in everything. The moment we encourage the second rate, we are lost. The only real way to help a backward group is to give opportunities of good education. This includes technical education which is becoming more and more important.”
Regrettably, the GOP is not inspired by Nehru’s idealism; it is powered by Sonia Gandhi’s cynicism.