Beyond Muslim Quotas || Reservations K(H)annot Do !

Beyond Muslim Quotas || Reservations K(H)annot Do !
Beyond Muslim Quotas || Reservations K(H)annot Do !

Quotas and religious vote-bank politics are back on the political platter amidst hectic electioneering in Karnataka, Whereby our netagan are busy in one-upmanship, populist bravado and mindlessness. Doling out reservations like moongphalis to pander to their vote-banks Big deal if it threatens to destroy the body politic of the nation wherein even angels fear to tread!


Last week the Supreme Court heard two petitions on reservation based on religion. One a two decades issue hanging fire for quotas for Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christains. Two the deletion of 4% reservation for Muslims in the OBC category which was redistributed to Vokkaligas and Lingayats.

The Government told the Court it should wait for Justice Balakrishnan Commission report before adjudicating on the matter as it had rejected 2007 Justice Ranganath Misra Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities which suggested reservations benefits for Dalits who accepted Christianity and Islam. Calling the report “flawed…it was composed within the four walls of a room. There was no field study done.”

Shot back the Court, “Tomorrow there will be a different political dispensation which may say the new report is not acceptable. How many commissions will be appointed? Social stigma may continue even after conversion. We cannot shut our eyes.” As one of the reasons people from Scheduled Castes converted to Islam or Christianity was primarily to come out of the oppressive system of untouchability which is not prevalent in Islam or Christianity.

However, according to the existing SC reservations framework only those who follow Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism can avail reservation benefits. Dalits who converted to Islam and Christianity to fight caste-based oppression cannot do so as they lose their SC status once they move out of the Hinduism fold and the two other religions. Consequently, they cannot claim to be backward since backwardness based on untouchability is only prevalent in Hindu society or its branches. Also, Christianity as a religion is “egalitarian”, as it does not follow any caste system.

Converts however argue, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 is violative of Articles 14 and 15 as it discriminates against members of SC communities who have converted to religions other than Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.


Questionably, When does minorityism supercede equality? Are quotas based on religion and community the answer for maintaining India’s social fabric and harmony? How does it better the lot of the mass of Muslims, if a few persons get jobs? Is the Muslim identity distinct from that of the Indian?

Importantly, reservation per se goes against Article 15(1). It not only divides people but also harms national unity, integrity and fraternity. Besides, violating the secularism doctrine that grants equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their religion. We must realize our Constitution   framers had explicitly decided against religion-based reservations.

Additionally, backward Muslims, who form the bulk of the community, are already included in the OBCs list, entitled for reservations on the basis of their socio-economic condition. Karnataka had done this as there was no empirical evidence or data or population figures has now put it on hold.

True, the Government’s fundamental mission is to uplift poor and backward classes, educate and provide them equal opportunities. But, the problem arises when our netagan in their quest for votes recklessly calculate reservation on the basis of labelling minorities, Muslims and Christians, as backward or dalits for availing quotas. Knowing Islam does not accept any casteism and therefore no Islamic country provides reservations to poor Muslims by labelling them dalits or backwards.

Further, we need to remember if reservations based on castes are bad, affirmative action on communal basis is horrendous. It cannot be justified by ominous reasoning that it would bring Muslims into the mainstream and ensure harmony between majority and minority communities. Or it would prevent Muslims from being exploited as vote-banks by the so-called secular Parties.

True, Muslims, like Hispanic and Afro-Americans in US, lag behind in socio-economic development. Data collated by Sachar and others show socio-economic indicators for Muslims were below those for OBCs in many cases. About 59% were illiterate, only 10% went to school and mere 8% opted for higher education.

But, economic criteria, rather than religious identity, should form basis of a reservation policy. One way would be introducing a deprivation index wherein points are awarded for disadvantages based on caste, community, gender, type of schooling and family background. Which takes into account different indicators of inequality among needy from religious and ethnic minorities for affirmative action.

Tragically, so blinded are politicians in their quest for power that none can see the Frankenstein they recklessly continue to create. By giving legitimacy to communal quota, religious bigotry at its most ferocious could end up in carving once more a blood-stained path across our country. Clearly, this could sow poisonous seeds for a new communal movement.


Unfortunately, ground realities and make-believes sociology do not always correspond. Reservations by themselves cannot be the sole panacea for eradicating poverty, nor is it a guarantee that members of certain religions and castes will get Government jobs or seats in educational institutions.


The truth is that we are today caught in a vicious circle which has been made a lot more malignant by our unstable and fragmented politics. Not just that. The scepter that haunts the nation is not that of class struggle but of religious-caste struggle. Majority vs minority, backwards and forwards have become more meaningful than the Left and the Right in politics.


By that token, the whole social reform movement will become meaningless. Our leaders should remember that universalisation of reservation will mean goodbye to excellence and standards — a ‘must’ for any modern nation that wishes to forge ahead.


Our netas and their progenies should remember that social justice and equal opportunity is not the prerogative of a chosen few. As it stands the system of caste and religious based quotas has become divisive and self-defeating. The need of the hour is to provide quality education to all as reservations are no answer to fulfilling the people’s aspirations. By cramming down quotas in education and jobs is like putting the cart before the horse.

The tragedy of India is that its political class wants the present show to go on. Undeniably, social justice is a desirable and laudable goal. But it cannot be at the cost of nurturing inequity. Remember, there is no place for double standards or the Orwellian concept of ‘more equal than others’ in a democracy. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The Fundamental Rights provide for equal opportunities for all irrespective of caste, creed or sex. Let’s not fudge or forget this.


Time now for our petty power-at-all cost polity to think beyond vote-bank politics and look at the long-term implications. No longer will young India accept that power in privilege can be transformed through electoral competition into power in numbers. Reservations K(h)annot do! —- INFA


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Beyond Muslim Quotas || Reservations K(H)annot Do !