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Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Muslims Need Affirmative Action"


Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson of the National Commission on Minorities in conversation with Onkareshwar Pandey & Aditi Prasad on minority sub-quota & politicisation of religion
ADITI PRASAD/ONKARESHWAR PANDEY | Issue Dated: June 17, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : wajahat habibullah | muslim reservation |

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has turned down the government's proposal to give 4.5 per cent reservation to minorities within the OBC quota. Your comment?
On  principle, one can't be entitled to reservation on the basis of religion. I have seen the government order. It categorises Muslims eligible for reservations and that is based on the idea of their occupation. In India, if you are involved in a certain occupation, you are given a certain class or caste. That category may be somewhat different among Muslims, and different among Hindus. For example, weavers in Muslims are called Julaha. Weavers among Hindus are called Bunkar. Now if you are giving reservation to Bunkar, then why not Julahas. Now, Julahas are also known as Ansari and are not counted in OBCs. So there is a slight complication. In my view reservation should be based on occupation and not religion.

But don't reservations, in any form, discourage meritocracy?
I have never been a great supporter of reservation. But I believe that if you give reservation to one section of the community, then any other section – of the same category - should also be given the same benefits. Simply because one person belongs to another religion should not mean that he or she – although doing the same kind of work – should be denied that. That is why we have taken a stand in the Supreme Court with regard to Scheduled Castes – that Muslims and Christians should be treated at par with the Scheduled Castes even if they have changed their religion. I would put this 4.5 per cent quota issue in the same category. OBCs  include Muslims. For example, weavers, cobblers, etc. Now if cobblers were Hindus they would be treated as Scheduled Castes, but if they are Muslims they are treated as OBCs. That is fine. Except that they are not getting the benefits.

So is sub-quota within the quota the answer?
I am not very sure. But the point is that that is the recourse that the government has taken. The Ranganath Commission has also recommended that there must be an 8 per cent reservation for Muslims within that quota. What the GOI is thinking of is 4.5 per cent. As I said, I am not terribly happy with the idea of reservation in any case. I would prefer what one may call 'affirmative action'. Although one may also say that affirmative action has not been entirely successful.

Talking of affirmative action, are you happy with the government's implementation of the recommendations made by the Sachar Committee?
The government says that they are implementing all the recommendations. But the community and the members of the Committee don’t find the implementation of most programs satisfactory.  Take the flagship MSDP (Multi-Sectoral Development Programme) in which 90 districts have been identified as Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs). I can say that the implementation of MSDP programme is not satisfactory even in even one of the  districts. I went to a Muslim dominated village of landless labourers in Araria district in Bihar. But I didn't find any development there. Not a single project had taken off. And yet, on paper crores have been spent on that district. The Planning Commission has now recommended that implementation should be done in blocks.

Many religious clashes are reported from across the country. How much of it is sheer politics?
It was the British who actually politicised religion in India. The country's partition was aided, abetted and encouraged by the British. The huge divide between the communities today is part of that legacy. It is not the uneducated that believe in the Hindu-Muslim divide, instead it’s the educated class that has more biases. When you have, let's say, riots in Gujarat or tribals attacking Muslims – their motivation in doing this is not so much the religion, it is a feeling that is fed into them by those who wish to instigate the riot.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017