Reservations on Religion
Reservations on Religion
By Meenakashi Lekhi
The UPA-2, headed by the Congress, are they Indians, do they understand India? I cannot help but compare them or their policies with the British. The similarities are numerous but I shall only deal with three such examples.
First, the “Diarchy”, a system of governance, in which there is a nominal head of a state but the power vests somewhere else. Similar style of functioning is evident in the Congress too. Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister but the power vests in the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. What could not be achieved directly has been achieved indirectly. A parallel can be drawn, with the British rule in India when Nawabs and Rajas were the nominal heads but the real power vested with the British Crown.
Second, India was economically exploited by the imperialistic powers. Though the economic resources were generated in India but the riches were exported out of the country to finance foreign economies (British industrialisation). Similar policies are adopted even today by the present day government when it comes to the issue of black money, FDI in retail, executive orders on land ownership rights in SEZ’s etc.
Third, the internal fault lines of religious identities are being exploited to follow the policy of divide and rule. The new rivalries are sought to be created between the significant no’s of minorities and the members of the majority groups. This comes at the onset of electoral process in 5 states, which are headed for assembly seats. At this juncture, the decision of the Congress to announce quota for minorities on the basis of religion draws an equivalent to “Communal Award” by the British. It is this specific feature which I intend to discuss in this article.
If one chooses to listen to what any citizen of our great nation Bharat or India or Hindustan wants, it is of course, prosperity, development and good governance. Citizens from the states which are going for elections, including UP, am sure are no different! Across religions, castes and classes. Keeping the sentiments of the voters in mind BJP choose to centre its election campaign on the issues of corruption, criminality and development. The Congress which only has 2G, CWG and the likes to claim the fame, choose to divert attention and polarise polity on the religious grounds by announcing the quota for the minorities.
Interestingly, the state of UP during the post-Independence period for most time period, was governed either directly by the Congress or indirectly by the Congress supported State governments. It is here where minority community dominated districts do not have adequate schools or health centres, nor that UP has much progress elsewhere. It is then not a surprise that cities like Benaras, a centre of learning or Kanpur, an industrial centre and several other cities have been reduced to irrelevance due to lack of governance. This is indicative of the fact that the policies adopted by the Congress are holding the Muslims back and yet they are the ones who advocate special packages for them. In the BJP ruled state the members of the minority community are progressing far better.
It is in this background, the Congress announced 4.5 per cent reservation for minorities (Muslims) within 27 per cent OBC reservations. As OBC’s certain members of minority community as well are covered within 27 per cent reservation. One may look at it any one way, it is apparent that this is quite evidently an act of appeasement, populism and polarisation of the communities. Such arbitrary act is bound to retard the growth of nationalism and inhibit democracy. Concept of common citizenship looses its meaning by virtue of such acts. It leads to division of society into water tight compartments and renders the formation of national policy almost impossible. India becomes a house divided against itself.
It is ridiculous to have religion based reservations in a secular polity. Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission reports are cited by the Congress to be the gospel truths behind the sinister act of religion based reservations. These reports cite a series of numbers without putting them in context. The data is quoted without normalisation. In addition the report takes into account a degree of graduation alone into account to be the basic level of education. Amongst several anomalies, the worker participation ratio(WPR) amongst hindus is (40.4 per cent) as compared to muslims (31.3 per cent). But when in depth analysis of this data is done by incorporating the gender features then the real picture emerges. The Muslim women participation rate is dismal to the level of 14.1 per cent. Can this anomaly be resolved by reservations? Or should the community search its own soul for resolving such anomalies! According to National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) average income of Hindu and Muslim households are Rs 168 and Rs 160 per day respectively. Muslims surpass every community with 65.31 per cent enrolment, hindus are at 54.91 per cent, for the primary education. But at the graduation level Christians are 8.7 per cent, Hindus (7.01 per cent) and Muslims lag behind by (3.6 per cent). Since the data shows large gap, one may need to gather the data about the primary schools where most members of the minority community send their children? Could the answer be Madarssas? Which may further indicate that such schools may provide religious education but are completely out of place to give modern education? A conclusion may thus be drawn that this form of education does not help the children to compete on their own merit. In health , infant mortality rate and child mortality rate are far higher amongst Hindus than Muslims. On an average a muslim woman produces 1.1 child more than her Hindu counterpart. Apart from the facts and figures, religion based reservations are against the mandate of the Constitution.
Reservations may mean different things to different people. Some may understand it as an anti-poverty measure, while others may think that it means only right to access and not right to redress. Some may call it as part of the affirmative action others may think it otherwise. The scheme of the Constitution has to be applied to the word reservation to understand its legal meaning. The word reservation does not appear in Article 15(4) but is a subject of Article 16(4). It is in this context that Article 335 of the Constitution has to be seen. While dealing with the issue of reservation, a stable equilibrium needs to be found between justice to the backwards, equity for the forwards and efficiency for the entire system. Reservation to an entire backward class is not a Constitutional mandate. It is the State’s prerogative. The backward class which seeks to get the benefit of Article 16(4) of the Constitution must consist of a homogenous group—homogeneity being backwardness. The thread of backwardness runs through the members of this class and can never be supplemented by either caste or religion. In the name of religion, an artificial class or division is sought to be created amongst backwards, the same is completely barred by the Constitutional mandate of Articles 14, 15 and 16. If benefits are not percolating equitably then measures should be taken to see that such people are given adequate or additional training to enable them to compete with others.
The very concept of us and theirs is in violation to any principle of nationhood. The chapter on growth and development necessarily has to have all of us, who believe in the unity of people, one destiny and common goals. Congress has repeatedly displayed vested interest in backwardness. Rather then bring competition between people to move forward they are competing to remain backward. The lopsided system is bound to result in lack of development, will further deteriorate opportunities and destroy amity between the communities. This scenario can only lead to the abuse of power. Under these circumstances policy of minority reservation becomes a mere propaganda and the exercise reaches fructification not by reaching the objective but by winning elections. That is why they announce it before an election which raises doubts about the honesty of intent and sincerity of purpose.
No wonder the Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi deciphered the message and banned the quota. Hope, the muslim community too deciphers the same.
(The writer is a senior Supreme Court Advocate)