Sub Quota for Muslims Some Observations
The May 28 order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court quashing the decision of Union Cabinet on 4.5 per cent minority sub-quota within the existing 27 per cent reservation in government jobs and admission in educational institutions for the OBC has revived the protracted debate on the issue of reservation for Muslims. Many Muslim leaders while terming the court’s verdict unfortunate urged the centre to take up necessary steps to ensure that Muslims should get the privilege of reservation. Same evening a senior Muslim leader from Andhra Pradesh during a TV channel debate on the High Court’s verdict said that so long the Muslims do not get the separate reservation quota; they will not be able compete with their Hindu counterparts. The appeal of the Central Government in the Supreme Court for the stay of Andhra High Court’s order was also refused on the ground that the scheme of reservation was not supported by any constitutional or statutory provision.
The reservation for Muslims on the ground of their social, educational and economic backwardness has been an unresolved debate in post-Independence India. But in view of the following scenario the issue is seemingly not the backwardness of the Muslims but a re-play of the divisive politics of British India.
- From Islamic point of view Muslims are an enlightened group of human race and therefore not backward
- Reputed Islamic theologians have glorified the poverty and illiteracy as will of Allah
iii. Even if Muslims in India are economically backward, their leaders are responsible for it.
- The reports and surveys of various comm,ittees endorsing the backwardness of Muslims are not based on ground reality.
From an Islamic point of view Muslims are enlightened group of human race: As per Islamic belief Muslims are the enlightened group of human race as they were liberated from Yom-e-Jahiliya (the era of ignorance) and brought to Yom-e-Roshan (an era of enlightenment). Accordingly, after the death of Prophet Mohammad in 632 AD when the successive Islamist forces conquered different parts of the world including Indian sub-continent, the Muslims all over the world believe that Islam is the best and most perfect religion. Thus, reservation for this enlightened group of Indian people on the ground of their backwardness is seemingly contrary to the medieval psyche of Islamic belief.
Glorification of illiteracy and poverty by Islamic theologians: Many Islamic theologians have even glorified illiteracy and poverty as will of Allah which suggests that Muslims are contended with their so called educational and economic backwardness. Al Ghazali (1058’1111 C.E.) a Persian Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher and mystic who has been sometimes been referred to by historians as the single most influential Muslim after the Prophet (Wickipedia) quoted the latter calling himself ‘a guardian of the illiterates sent by Allah’ (Bukhari, 3:34:335). (http://islam-watch.org/SujitDas/Holy-Islam-Illiteracy-Poverty-Backwardness.htm).
Ibn Baz, a reputed Islamic scholar from Saudi Arabia in a book published by Islamic University of Medina in 1974 confidently claimed that the earth is motionless and the Sun revolves around the earth. He argued, ‘if the earth is rotating, the countries, the mountains, the trees, the rivers, and the oceans will have no bottom and the people will see the eastern countries move to the west and the western countries move to the east.”
Ali Sina also a noted Muslim writer in a paper- ‘The Fall of Islam’ observed that ‘The greatest gift of Islam to its followers is poverty’. (www.faithfreedom.org/ Articles//sina/eradication.htm).
Thus, if the doctrines of Ghazali, Ibn Baz, Bukhari and Sunam Ibn Majah are parts of the curriculum of Madrasas, any efforts by non-Muslim government to resolve the economic backwardness of the Muslims through modern education may even be viewed as an attempt to dilute the religious identity of the Muslims.
Ironically, no challenge from the Muslim intellectuals was ever thrown to the doctrines of Ghazali, Ibn Baz, Bukhari and Sunam Ibn Majah as a result the Islamic priestly class gets free hand in keeping the Muslim masses away from scientific and modern knowledge. But when the Muslim masses lagged behind their Hindu counterparts in competition for government jobs, the community leaders started crying hoarse that Muslims remained backward due to the government’s injustice and unfair treatment to them and raised the issue of reservation for the Muslims.
Muslim leaders are responsible for the so called backwardness of the community: The tragedy is that Muslim leaders themselves were responsible for the backwardness of the community.. So long India was under Islamic rule the Muslims were the dominant religious minority and were supposed to be superior to their Hindu counterparts who were often called as subject race. Even during British rule they remained suffering from this complex.
Historically, reservation for Muslims was initially demanded by the Muslim League and accepted by the colonial power. Such reservation was however not based on the backwardness of the Muslims. It was in fact colonial concessions like separate electorates, reservation of seats in municipalities and legislative assemblies offered to them by the British as a part of its divide and rule policy. Does it not mean that if the British kept away the Muslims from the Indian National Congress through these concessions, our political parties are also pampering the Muslim leaders who are demanding concessions on the basis of backwardness even when Indian Constitution does not permit them on the basis of religion?
The Muslims were the dominant religious minority for over five hundred years of their rule in the sub-continent but lost that status with the final eclipse of Islamic power in 1857 and advent of British rule. They made a tactical mistake of failing to switch over from the Arabic/Persian language, the symbol of Islamic identity to English the language of British Administration. Accordingly, the posts in the government were filled up by the Hindus who had no aversion from English. Since then the number of Hindus in government jobs increased and the Muslims started suffering.
After partition a sizeable section of Muslim population that had aggressively and violently supported the movement for their separate homeland stayed back in secular and democratic India which was a great historical contradiction. Since the larger majority of their former political leaders migrated to Pakistan, they became leaderless. Thus, in a state of confusion and absence of visionary political leadership, the Muslim masses were left with no option but to depend on the religious leaders mostly belonging to the fundamentalist Deobandi School, Jamaat-e-Islami and the ex-Muslim League. This is the root cause of the problems now faced by the community.
Deobandis, the political ally of the ruling Congress Party during freedom movement continued their pre-partition alliance with the Congress. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an association of Deobandi Ulema even worked like a Muslim front of the Congress party. The ex-Muslim Leaguers mostly of Aligarh background too switched over their loyalty to the ruling Congress for political convenience. The ruling parties accepted those leaders as the representatives of the Indian Muslims and used them as managers of Muslim votes. They were kept satisfied with some share in the legislative and parliamentary bodies.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind on the other hand followed the dictates of its founder Maulana Maudoodi, who on the eve of his departure for Pakistan in a message addressed to Indian Muslims said ‘Islam by virtue of which you call yourselves as Muslims, its spirit is ceaselessly at war with the unholy spirit of secular and national democracy and its foundational principles. Islam and this system can never go together. If you really believe in Islam which was revealed by God through Muhammad, then wherever you are you must resist the establishment of this nationalistic secular democracy’ (Asghar Ali Engineer, Indian Muslims, 1985, pp.128-29).
The Indian Constituent Assembly in a long debate abolished the divisive colonial policy of reservation for Muslims.. But the founding fathers of Indian Constitution granted special privilege to the minority-read Muslims under Articles 25, 29 and 30 of the Constitution along with right to equality.
In view of the constitutional privileges it was expected that Muslims in the new state of India would integrate with the secular and democratic stream of the country. But the way their leadership continued voicing concern over the grievances of the community showed that they revived their separatist politics in the name of religious identity.
The political Mullhas instead of guiding the community for their integration in national mainstream stressed upon the peripheral issues like Muslim Personal Law, keeping beard , wearing of Burqa by the Muslim women and permission for a break from duty during Namaz time for the Muslims in government jobs. With religious identity as prime agenda of their politics, they with the support of the vote wooing political parties played their self-seeking politics and did not encourage the community to think beyond mosque and madrasa and thereby lost an opportunity for contemporary education needed for economic development.
Despite the aggressive participation of the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the movement for creation of a separate homeland Pakistan for them, the post partition governments launched a number of schemes and programmes for overall development of the minorities like National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and latter set up Ministry of Minority Affairs. However, the common Muslims could not participate in the educational development of the country especially in the job-oriented higher educational arena and therefore failed to acquire the material benefits of the educational and economic growth. Because of the lack of the educational development they remained alienated from the whole process which gradually became an issue for the vote-seeking political parties.
In fact the Muslim leaders discouraged the community members from modern education and even created an impression that the education imparted in government schools was against the tradition of Islam. It appears that the Muslim proletariat are still responding to the call of Ibrahim Khan’s ‘Red Pamphlet’ in the twentieth century’’Ye Mussalman arise awake! Do not read in the same school with Hindus’ (R. C. Majumdar, Struggle for Freedom, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, 1988).
The sudden increase in the number of madrasas after Independence justifies that the Muslim leadership was more interested in Islamic education for the community than the secular and modern education imparted in government schools. Till 1946 there were only 187 madrasas in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but after partition, even when a large number of Muslims from these two states migrated to Pakistan, the number of madrasas instead of decreasing, increased to 356 by 1968 (Islam in Secular India by Mushir U. Haq, 1972, page26). “Today there are lakhs of Madrasas spread all over the country” which however, could not enlighten Indian Muslims to develop a positive outlook.” (Indian Muslims by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, page 88).
In today’s world it is an established fact that modern education is the key to economic development. The Muslim leaders are however, not ready to understand that their co-religionists who do not have anything except theological knowledge cannot compete with those who at this scientific age are busy with the conquest of space, genetic engineering and wonders of the computer which are directly linked with the economic prosperity of the people. In fact they have never blamed the traditional Islamic system of education for the backwardness of the Muslims.
The successive governments on the other hand did not like to interfere directly or indirectly in the dictates of the Muslim leaders to their co-religionists against sending children to the government schools. Such attitude of the Muslim leaders and the ruling parties debarred the common Muslims from the eligibility for the government jobs. This has been the main reason behind the marginalization of the Muslim masses.
Mandalisation of Indian politics in late eighties added a new chapter in the Muslim politics of modern India when a group of the low caste born Muslims known as Ajlaf and Arzal were also included in the list of the OBCs for reservation in government jobs. Since the Muslims with foreign ancestry as well as the upper caste converts were not included in the list, they raised the issue of the backwardness of the entire Muslim community.
Muslim intellectuals namely Saleem Akhtar and Nafees Ahmad in a joint paper entitled ‘Reservation for Muslims: A need of hour’ suggested reservation for Muslims as solution to their integration in national mainstream. They said, ‘the reservation policy requires urgent restructuring so that Muslims get integrated in the national mainstream’ (Muslims in India by SN Singh, Anmol Publication Pvt. Ltd., 2003, p.65.).
The reports and surveys of various committees on backwardness of Muslims are not based on ground reality: Despite the recommendation of the late justice M.H. Beg, the former Chief Justice of Supreme Court who headed the Minority Commission from 1981 to 1988 to do away with Minority Commission and replace it with or merge into a National Integration-cum-Human Rights Commission (http://bharatabharati. wordpress.com/2011/12/24/national-commission-for-minorities-creating-weightages-shreerang-godbole/), the so called secular political parties did not adhere to it since it suited them to play communal politics.
Amazingly, demanding government funding for madrasas, resisting enactment of a Uniform Civil Code for all the citizens, agitating against family planning, launching aggressive agitation against the Supreme Court judgment in Shahbano case, funding the salary to the employees of Waqf Board and demanding unchecked concessions including reservation gave the feeling that the Indian Muslims preferred to live alienated and un-integrated with the rest of Indian population. It should have been known to all the political parties that playing vote bank politics was against democratic and secular credentials of the Indian constitution.
The reports and surveys of Gopal Singh, National Sample Survey and the Programme for Action under the New Education Policy of 1986, Rangnath Mishra, Sachar committee endorsed the view of the ‘secular’ intelligentsia that the Muslims were educationally and economically backward. These reports however, bypassed the real question that ‘ is religion the criteria for the backwardness of the second largest religious majority in India?
Similarly, the reports hardly discussed the role of the Muslim leaders individually or organizationally to find out how this community which was a vibrant and dominant religious minority during Muslim rule became more backward than their Hindu counterparts in a democratic and secular India.
Another flaw in the reports is categorising the entire Muslim community economically backward though the ground reality suggests that Afjals and the Arzals have all along been socially much backward than the Ashrafs who are descendants of Islamist invaders like Arabs, Turks, Afghans and Mughals and those native converts from the feudal upper caste Hindus.
Some data may prove that representation of Muslims in government jobs is not in proportion to their population. But the question to be looked into is – whether it is due to any discrimination of the community at the state and political levels?. Indian constitution granted equal opportunity to all the citizens but as discussed above the community leaders neither introduced contemporary learning in madrasas nor encouraged the Muslim children to join government schools and as a result they failed the job market.
Since the overwhelming focus of Muslim leaders was on identity related emotive issues they are themselves responsible for the community lagging behind.s.
Bernard Lewis, a British-American historian and leading expert on Middle-East in his book ‘The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror’ rightly observed that ‘According to the World Bank, in 2000 the average annual income in the Muslim countries from Morocco to Bangladesh was only half the world average. But the irony is that common Muslims do not blame themselves for their pitiable condition. All they do is to put the charge on the civilized nations’. (http://islam-watch.org/SujitDas/Holy-Islam-Illiteracy-Poverty-Backwardness.htm
Conclusion: The recommendation for reservation to Muslims is primarily based on the thesis that the community is economically backward in comparison to the majority counterparts. However, the rise in the economic condition of Muslims with the rise of oil power in middle-east countries was seemingly not considered before the recommendation. The fact is that from 1970 onward the Indian Muslims migrated to the oil rich countries for jobs which improved their economic condition to the extent that they are even better than the Hindu OBCs. Visits of the Muslim villages may be an eye opener that how the flow of Arab money has improved the living condition of the Muslims.
The Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Millia Islamia the two prominent centres of modern education for the Muslims have increased the number of educated Muslim middle class but since the Islamic fundamentalist forces have a deep infiltration in both the institutions the modern learning to the Muslim students have hardly turned them into a forward looking and liberal citizens of the country for liberating the community from the medieval siege and promoting social change.
The financial help from the oil-rich Islamic world to the Islamic organisations in India Added more teeth to the Muslim politics in the country and the leaders of the community became more and more assertive towards their demands linked with political Islam which is apparently a recast of the communal politics of the Muslim League. Moin Shakir, a known Muslim writer in his book (Secularisation of Muslim Behaviour, p.72) observed, ‘Although politically Islam is the dying ideology of the stagnant elite, yet it cannot be replaced unless a change in the political elite takes place’. (SAAG)
By R Upadhyay