India’s Muslim Quota Conundrum


India’s Muslim Quota Conundrum

The more things change for India’s Muslims, the more they remain the same. Come elections and political parties invent ever new ways of wooing, using and exploiting them to reap their periodic harvest while the condition of the Muslims worsens by the day.

 

Being the oldest and most experienced of them all, the Congress Party has obviously mastered this art of fooling all the people all the time at the expense of some. But it’s not just the Congress; in this public bath, no one has a stitch on. With the crucial battle for five states heating up, the Muslims once again find themselves in the middle of a dirty, cynical game of one-upmanship with every political party using them as a football and a punching bag.

 

Uttar Pradesh is the big prize. Stakes couldn’t have been higher. Everyone from Mulayam’s Smajwadi to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, which first proposed a Muslim quota stealing the Congress’ thunder, is hungering after the pie. The Muslim-loving BJP is in the big game hunt too and is sharpening its knives for the sacrificial lamb.

 

Adding to the fun is the new breed of party – and channel-hopping ‘Muslim leaders’ parroting their newest party’s latest pitch swearing it to be God’s gift to the community. It gets so gross and nauseating at times you feel like throwing the TV remote at them!

 

The farce never seems to end. First, the Congress sends up the balloon of 4.5 percent quota for Muslims, rather conveniently, just before the poll dates were unveiled. It’s followed by the joke of a ‘minority quota’ in the still-born Lokpal, the corruption watchdog.

 

Law and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid then takes the game to a new level by promising to double the quota to nine percent. Interestingly, it came at his wife’s poll rally in Farrukhabad, raising a political storm and provoking the poll panel to freeze the quota. The Congress stands to lose nothing though. It could always demand the Muslim vote claiming it was committed to helping the community but its efforts were thwarted by parties like the BJP and others.

 

The grand ol’ party has played this cynical game for so long that it knows too well how it’s all going to unfold and how the opposition and media would respond to it. All you have to do is throw those perfect promises and dazzling dreams at the Muslims and the rest will follow.

 

Even if the Congress were serious and sincere about implementing the quota, even the paltry 4.5 percent, it makes little difference to the community in real terms if it is carved out of the existing 27 percent quota marked for the Other Backward Communities. Some Muslim groups like Ansaris (weavers) and Qureshis (butchers) are already covered under the 27 percent quota. It’s the economically struggling sections of the community that badly need hand holding.

 

And now with the EC staying the quota with courts likely to follow suit as happened in Andhra Pradesh, the Muslims have ended up once again with nothing while earning themselves a lot of ill will and resentment of the rest of the country, especially the OBCs. The cruel joke by a government fighting for its survival hasn’t just further isolated the community; it has ended up pitting it against communities that were once their allies and fellow travellers.

 

But then we have been here before. This is how the Congress has always paid the Muslims for their blind, unquestioning support since Independence. The Muslims have received nothing but such clever by half and often dangerous tokenism from the party. We thought things would be different under Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh because they came from a different background and could transcend the cynical, forever calculating Congress mindset.

 

Only the blind could have missed the fact that the Muslim vote played a critical role in bringing the party to power in 2004 after long years of wilderness. The feat was repeated in 2009, riding on all the talk of change although the government didn’t lift a finger to implement the bold recommendations of Justice Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission.

 

Both reports, especially the one by the Mishra Commission, make for disturbing reading as they turn the spotlight on the shocking state of a 200 million strong community. This is no time and place to go over them but in short both panels conclude that the Muslims are right now at the lowest rung of the hierarchy in every respect. Lowest of the low, they are today stacked even below the Dalits, the long discriminated castes. Only 4.5 percent Muslims are to be found in government jobs. Their representation in other areas is even more pathetic.

 

The credit for this state of affairs goes to the party that has been in power for the longest period of time since Independence. This is why you thought, if not for the wholehearted support it received in 2004 and 2009, this government would have implemented the recommendations of the two commissions it had formed in its wisdom.

 

If it had been serious about the minority welfare, it wouldn’t have slept on the recommendations of Justice Sachar and Justice Mishra for five years, only to remember the Muslims days ahead of the assembly elections. Personally, I have nothing but respect for Salman Khurshid. He comes from an illustrious family (grandson of the late president Dr Zakir Hussain) and obviously means well but is condemned by the company he keeps. The mindset of his party being what it is – others are fast catching up – it just cannot help itself to look beyond its petty electoral calculations and permutations and combinations of caste and religion.

 

I am not most comfortable with this whole quota business offering special treatment, or affirmative action as the Americans call it, for a particular group or community. Ideally, it should be equal opportunity for all. But we are not in an ideal situation. At times, extraordinary solutions are needed for extraordinary situations.

 

Affirmative action has transformed the lives of millions of the long oppressed Dalits and African Americans, helping them break free of the centuries old cycle of inhumane abuse and exploitation. It could make a difference to Muslims too, if political parties allowed it and looking at the issue from a religious prism.

 

The Muslim empowerment could actually mean lifting of a huge chunk of India’s population out of misery. But even if a quota for the politically and economically dispossessed Muslims becomes a reality, it might end up doing more harm than good thanks to the cut-throat nature of Indian politics, not to mention our Hindutva friends.

 

Perhaps it’s about time Muslims gave up their fond, innocent hopes of political action to end their political and economic deprivation. Instead of waiting for those crumbs and doles from politicians, they must take charge of their destiny. In the end if anyone is going to help them, it’s themselves.



Aijaz Zaka Syed

A Dubai-based writer & op-ed contribtuor for The News. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Fahad

    Rightly said, Muslims of India are being used as a football by Indian politicians. As the elections in India are coming nearer, get ready for some action and drama in Dehli.

    • Mohammad Arif

      This is because we are not following our religion correctly. There is no place for terrorism / extremism in our religion. Our prophet said to obtain knowledge as much as possible. Where are we in education even after our prophet’s instructions. Be brave, socialite, take care of every one first your neighbors don’t kill innocents (any body killing innocent people is certainly going to hell as per Islam), why we are killing innocents? And live like a man in the world. No body whether Hindu, Christian or Jews are better than you as human. But we have to increase the level of our morale and follow in the true sense of our religion. Do people feel safe in your hands??? No. They feel contrary. Work hard, get good education, certainly you will get good job. These Americans & Europeans were junglees without any culture (like animals in a jungle) but they established educational universities, their morale increased, they established human values, now you know where are they and where are others. This also was our Islam teachings.

  • Raj Chouhan

    Why should Quota for any one? Are not they capable to compete others? Only incapable or underprivileged expects helps. They should reject any such offer which makes them inferior to others.” KHUD HI KO KAR BULAND ITNA KE KHUDA BANDE SE AAKAR POOCHE BATTA TEREE RAZZA KYA HAE”.

  • M.Saeed

    Raj-ji, you are in need of an update. Your quote from Iqbal has since, gone through a drastic practical metamorphosis. It is now:

    Waseeh kar tondh ko itna
    ke piyala pait se poochey
    bata teri ghaza kya hai

  • http://www.facebook.com/satish.k.chadha Satish Kumar Chadha

    It is a sad situation where India is heading. The reservation under Indian Constitution was initially for ten years and is extended time and again for political gains. Firkaparasti instead of going down is increasing. Evenly distribution of fruits of development across the masses is duty of every elected government.

    The downtrodden belonging to any community should be provided leverage. Reservation for dalit was great idea 60 years back and was in line with Gandhian philosophy. The purpose of reservation was to mix lower casts with society. Over a time, Dalits now have their own class of Royals. These neo royals are not prepared to share these benefits with their own brothers. Despite Supreme Court’s direction to exclude the creamy layer, nothing has happened. Looking into this sad situation all started demanding reservation and OBCs became beneficiary. The situation has reached where not only the Muslims, but many Brahmnical category people are also reeling in poverty and even immolations are taking place.

    Distribution of resources to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) does not culminate in vote bank and our leaders can’t survive without vote banks. The Muslims are their best bet and all are trying to vow them. Hats off to the writer for putting up the issue in positive way … He has raised a real social problem of India.

  • http://www.facebook.com/satish.k.chadha Satish Kumar Chadha

    It is a sad situation where India is heading. The reservation under Indian Constitution was initially for ten years and is extended time and again for political gains. Firkaparasti instead of going down is increasing. Evenly distribution of fruits of development across the masses is duty of every elected government.

    The downtrodden belonging to any community should be provided leverage. Reservation for dalit was great idea 60 years back and was in line with Gandhian philosophy. The purpose of reservation was to mix lower casts with society. Over a time, Dalits now have their own class of Royals. These neo royals are not prepared to share these benefits with their own brothers. Despite Supreme Court’s direction to exclude the creamy layer, nothing has happened. Looking into this sad situation all started demanding reservation and OBCs became beneficiary. The situation has reached where not only the Muslims, but many Brahmnical category people are also reeling in poverty and even immolations are taking place.

    Distribution of resources to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) does not culminate in vote bank and our leaders can’t survive without vote banks. The Muslims are their best bet and all are trying to vow them. Hats off to the writer for putting up the issue in positive way … He has raised a real social problem of India.

  • http://www.facebook.com/satish.k.chadha Satish Kumar Chadha

    It is a sad situation where India is heading. The reservation under Indian Constitution was initially for ten years and is extended time and again for political gains. Firkaparasti instead of going down is increasing. Evenly distribution of fruits of development across the masses is duty of every elected government.

    The downtrodden belonging to any community should be provided leverage. Reservation for dalit was great idea 60 years back and was in line with Gandhian philosophy. The purpose of reservation was to mix lower casts with society. Over a time, Dalits now have their own class of Royals. These neo royals are not prepared to share these benefits with their own brothers. Despite Supreme Court’s direction to exclude the creamy layer, nothing has happened. Looking into this sad situation all started demanding reservation and OBCs became beneficiary. The situation has reached where not only the Muslims, but many Brahmnical category people are also reeling in poverty and even immolations are taking place.

    Distribution of resources to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) does not culminate in vote bank and our leaders can’t survive without vote banks. The Muslims are their best bet and all are trying to vow them. Hats off to the writer for putting up the issue in positive way … He has raised a real social problem of India.

  • NASAH

    Generally Muslims in India like their brethren in Pakistan believe more in the power of the prayer than in the energy of the education. Whenever the going gets tough for the Muslims, Muslims run to the Mosque not to the college.

    Yet a rising segment of new Muslims in India is more educated, more ambitious more science minded more secular more democratic more progressive than their brethren in Pakistan.

    This is because the minority Indian Muslim has a Role Model in a resurgent new entrepreneur Indian Hindu majority — that is secular, democratic, progressive math/science oriented, education-worshiping, tolerant and politically inclusive — Pakistan has NONE except the backward Muslim Mullah and the backward Muslim Army.

    And both are useless as role models. Jinnah has absolutely no influence in today’s Pakistan.

    • Raj Chouhan

      Respected Dr. NASAH

      You are not only genius but a perfect intellectual who has the courage to accept and speak the reality and truth. I consider you at par with your Great NAJAM SETHI and HASAN NISAAR. REGARDS from the core of my heart.

  • Mohammad Arif

    his is because we are not following our religion correctly. There is no place for terrorism / extremism in our religion. Our prophet said to obtain knowledge as much as possible. Where are we in education even after our prophet’s instructions. Be brave, socialite, take care of every one first your neighbors don’t kill innocents (any body killing innocent people is certainly going to hell as per Islam), why we are killing innocents? And live like a man in the world. No body whether Hindu, Christian or Jews are better than you as human. But we have to increase the level of our morale and follow in the true sense of our religion. Do people feel safe in your hands??? No. They feel contrary. Work hard, get good education, certainly you will get good job. These Americans & Europeans were junglees without any culture (like animals in a jungle) but they established educational universities, their morale increased, they established human values, now you know where are they and where are others. This also was our Islam teachings.