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States
Last Updated: December 29, 2010
Minority Development in West Bengal: A Left Perspective
By Moinul Hassan

In recent times there has been series of discussions regarding the socio economic conditions of the Indian minorities and their development and it is a welcome shift

We can gather far better information about the daily livelihood, struggles, sorrows and pleasure. The intensity with which the society will open up, the eagerness that it will express, the due prestige it will usher will help in cementing the democratic roots. Therefore a liberal social approach and understanding will be developed towards the issues of minority development and their social status.

It’s not a question of the minorities benefitting but on the whole the society will reap the harvest. Two pre conceived notions will cease to exist. The sense of being deprived within the minorities and the notion of the majority being at the helm of all affairs will die a gradual death. These discussions are very essential and the ongoing process is the reason for our optimism.

One more thing needs to be clarified. Who will be fighting out for the development of the minorities? Is this a battle for equal rights that has to be waged by the minorities alone or is it a war wherein the entire cross-section of the society needs to participate. Our party believes that the challenge of minority development is an integral issue of the entire democratic mass movement. A partial outlook cannot ensure the development of a state or of a particular area.
One of the basic tasks awaiting our party is to change the correlation of class forces. The natural allies of the left are scattered in different parts of the country. Being poor and deprived for long, majority of the minorities have been the traditional supporters of the left. A recent shift in support base has been there. Through protracted class struggles and by giving special emphasis on the developmental question, the support has to be won back.

This fight has to be an integral part of the class struggle. The problems faced by the dalits, minorities and women are to specially emphasized. Otherwise the society will be facing a hard division which will be hampering the class struggle in the long run and the left by any chance cannot let this happen. From this point of view and commitment the question of minority development is to be addressed.

Some facts and data are well known still we are mentioning them once more to record that west Bengal is among the four states in India which has a high percentage of Muslim population. According to 2001 Census, a total of 2 crores 31 lakhs Muslims reside in West Bengal. But already there is a change in that number.

The census of 2011 is on the way. Overall there is an estimate that one fourth of the entire Bengal population are Muslim minorities. Muslims constitute 96% of the total minority population in the state. In 12 districts of West Bengal Muslims constitute 25% of the total population. In the three districts - Murshidabad, Malda, and North Dinajpur, Muslims constitute more than fifty percent of the total population. The majority of these Muslims speak Bengali. Some Urdu speaking Muslims mainly reside at three places namely Kolkata, Asansol and Islampur.

A large section of the Muslim minorities in West Bengal have remained socially, economically and educationally backward. To eradicate the backwardness of this section several steps are necessary namely legal measures, government’s policy decision and the flourishing of mass movement. Otherwise there will be no change in situation.
The three decades of the Left Front rule in West Bengal have witnessed various government policies giving economic assistance and prestige to the poor. Since a major number of the poor people belong to Muslim community, the Left front government has played its natural role while deciding on the minority development.

The Muslims in general are poorer and it is not at all unnatural that the LF government had taken decisions in their favour. Theoretical debates continue over the reasons behind the backwardness of the Muslims and the trend is going to continue in coming days. Not going into the details of those discussions, I need to throw light upon some essential matters.

There cannot be a debate over the issue that the partition played havoc upon the Muslim community in our state. Lakhs of Muslims crossed the border with the belief that “this is not my country”. They left back everything. Their abode, belongings, dreams, hopes, sorrows, joy everything was left back as they left their land amidst the campaign of why they will remain in India despite Pakistan being created. Echoes of such campaign were there in the air in the then rural Bengal. A section of the middle class left in the hope of availing better facilities.

The main motive behind the exit of that educated enlightened middle class was the availability of government jobs in the newly established Muslim state of Pakistan.

The primary stigma of the partition was cured with a huge ‘exchange’ of Muslims beyond the frontier, the migration continued. The number was increasing radically. Riot, insecurity, and the absence of equal opportunity here had not left any option open except to cross the border. That was the time when most of the densely Muslim populated areas in west Bengal were affected by religious riots for small and petty reasons. Even the incidents like the procession of Hindu idol, passing through the road in front of a mosque or distribution of meat after kurbani, centering round all these incidents confrontation used to take place between two religions.

However it can be noted that these confrontations were always not caused by pure social reasons but sometime just for the shuffling of the religious tramp cards by the political parties. That was the time when Congress was the ruling party in West Bengal as well as of India. Many of the Congress leaders and workers were found to be associated with these communal riots in a direct or indirect fashion.

The Left always stood firmly against such attempts of communal riots even at the cost of their supporters and activists getting killed in the process. Though the left did not have much mass base with it, by using that limited force they have devoted themselves to tackle the disturbances, to regain the self confidence and self-reliance of the people.

This glorious role of the left had also consolidated the mass base in due course. The minorities have always considered the lefts to be their friends. In 1964 a huge communal riot took place in and around Kolkata. The minorities were attacked significantly. The riot did not spread to the nooks and corners of the state geographically but it had its ripples of insecurity among the general mass of minorities. The terrorized population in large numbers started to cross borders. The little middle class of Muslims left in Bengal gradually vacated the state for their new abode.

Recently a research work “The Spoils of Partition” by historian Jaya Chatterjee has shown how the Muslims crossed borders at that time. Boys and girls belonging to Muslim families left school and colleges in a dangerous social environment of misunderstanding and confusion.

The administration was not in a mood to deal with the problems which had by and large increased the mental tension of the entire Muslim cross section of the population. Political efforts in this regard were never taken up. The Congress governments kept their silence in this regard while the police administration made the situation more complex by indulging in partial activities. So the natural corollary was that - several Muslims left the country.

The people who stayed back were mainly poor. Agricultural workers, craftsmen and daily workers constituted the bulk. Some upper class Muslim families were there in a very small number in each district but the middle-class completely disappeared.

The entire mood was of a deserted defeated soldier. All colours vanished from the life of the community. It will be easy for a social scientist to understand that how difficult it was to crave their mode and path of development. Politicians are also social scientist and they have also to understand the problems. At that time majority of the people in Bengal were poor. The majority of the Muslims were associated with agriculture and naturally they were very poor.
The word “aakal” (scarcity) was a very common word to be used in the then Bengal. The agrarian production was very less resulting in a food crisis . Irrigation facilities were poor. Developed seeds were not available. With all this tpowerful money lenders dominated the scene.

Poor people were always alert and the Muslims naturally had to bear the lion’s share of the fear. With poverty of this sort thinking of having proper education is a matter of day dreaming. Wards were sent to work at other places not for money but at the cost of ensuring one square meal. Does social development happen in such conditions?

The first priority was to feed the people. In various districts documents explaining the socio economic conditions are being published. We may look at the presence of the Muslims in the field of education after 1947.

Let us furnish one example. Recently the celebrated Krishnanath College had its 150 years celebration. During the centenary and even today special editions to commemorate the milestone have been published. The lists of students year-wise have been furnished. The number of Muslim students is almost microscopic. If this is the condition in a Muslim dominated district of Murshidabad, it can be well understandable what the situation in other parts of the state is.

So what is the reality behind the campaign of educated Muslim youths being continuously deprived of jobs? It is true that there has been a change in situation now. The change did not take place all of a sudden. There have been long-drawn struggles to restore peaceful democratic environment in the state. Both Hindus and Muslims have been an integral part of this struggle.

The left had played a glorious role in cementing the bondage and waging a united fight. The working class and the peasantry had also played their role irrespective of religious affiliations. The hard drawn struggles paved the way for the creation of the Left Front government in the state. Innumerable comrades have laid down their lives in order to ensure the establishment of the LF government.

The establishment of the government was welcomed with exuberance in the villages and cities of Bengal. Let us look back and we can see that eradication of poverty was one of the main agendas of the new government. The minorities were comparatively poorer so naturally their development was prioritized. The same formulation holds true for schedule tribes, schedule castes and adivasis.

The first task undertaken by the LF government in West Bengal was to stop violence of all sorts. Along with political violence, religious violence was also stopped, thereby helping the minorities to regain their lost confidence. The sense that there is no need to shift to Bangladesh or Pakistan started to gather momentum.

The notion and belief of India being their own country was strengthened. Only government decisions were alone not capable to accomplish this. The overall education, the strengthened democratic environment and the urge to safeguard the culture had also been responsible in accelerating the process.

Another very important factor is the election of autonomous bodies. For long there was no election in the municipalities and the panchayats. Common people were not even aware about the election process. The LF government kept its pre-election promise. Huge number of people participated in the process and naturally a large section of Muslims too became a part of the administrative process.

This is a matter of great significance in independent India. Never have Muslims in such large numbers either contested or been elected in elections. The campaign of Muslims not being in the mainstream of the society was shattered thus giving the minorities a renewed self confidence.

The government was committed to the mass movement for reforming lands. The work began and West Bengal became became the best advertisement of land reform in our country. Out of the total beneficiary through land reform 54% are from Bengal alone.

According to a report published on 28th- February 2010 a total of 11.277 lakh acres land in West Bengal have been distributed through land reforms, which has directly benefited 30.106 lakh farmers including 55%of Schedule castes and schedule tribes. The percentage will reach 75% if we include the minorities.

Another outcome of land reform was to provide the succession right to the Bargadars and record the names of daily wage workers in the field. Till November 2009, 15.37 lakh names have been recorded as bargadars. The total land is 4.56 lakh acres. Out of the total recorded names 4.73 lakh, 1.67 lakh and 1.86 lakh names are respectively from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and the minority community.

The distribution of the excess land among the landless people is a regular process practiced by the state government, which has provided the maximum benefit to the downtrodden people of the state, and especially the minorities in a huge number. Till the end of the year 2009 there havs been a distribution of 4.56 lakh hectors excess land among 29.89 lakh people. Among these 11.03 lakh people belong to the Scheduled Castes, 5.47 to the Scheduled tribes and 3.62 lakh to the minority community. (Source: the Economic Survey 2009-2010 and Financial Budget
Speech 2010-2011 delivered by the Finance Minister.
)

The people of the state are well aware about the role the Left Front government has been consistently playing in the development of the minorities in the state. I am mentioning here the recent data that is available. Very recently the state budget for the economic year 2010-2011 has been placed in the state assembly.

Still it can be said the state government has been thinking very seriously about the welfare and the development of the minorities. Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsees, Christians are regarded as minorities at the national level and Jains are considered as minorities at the state-level in West Bengal.

For the development of the minority Muslims nine autonomous bodies namely West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation, West Bengal Minority Commission, Wakaf Board, West Bengal, West Bengal State Haj Committee, West Bengal Urdu Academy, Wakaf Judiciary, West Bengal Madrasha Education Board, West Bengal Madrasha Service Commission and Alia University have been formed and they are engaged in various welfare and developmental activities.

The main activities that have been undertaken and the projects that have already been planned are as follows -

Hostels for Muslim Girls: Many believe that illiteracy in general among the Muslims and illiteracy in particular amongst the Muslim girls is one of the reasons behind the socio economic backwardness of the community. Keeping this in mind, a decision to set up hostels for Muslim girls in remote locations has been taken long ago. The plan covers building of more than one hostel in each of twelve districts. Already ten hostels have been set up. In the financial year 2009-10 two new hostels have been planned. Rupees 50 lakhs have been allotted for building of such hostels in the year 2008-09. The allocation has increased and has amounted to Rs. 4 crore in the year 2009-10 which will result in additional house building thus benefitting a larger number of Muslim girl students. A total of 21 girls’ hostels have been planned.

Creation of boundary for graveyards: For proper maintenance of the graveyards 102 boundaries have been constructed in the year 2008-09 at the expense of rupees 3.77 crores. Allocation has been increased to rupees four crores in the year 2009-10 for this purpose. 16 boundaries have been constructed in 2009-10 and target has been set for construction of 50 more boundaries. Along with the government allocations funds are also allocated from MP LADS and MLAFunds. The district administration looks after the execution. Special mention may be made about the celebrated graveyard of Karbala in Bahrampur (Murshidabad district) of the period of Emperor Shah Jahan which has been renovated and conserved through this project. The Left Front Government has been sympathetically thinking about the demand of setting up of another graveyard in the city of Kolkata.

Loan scheme for Women: For empowerment of the Minority women the Loan Scheme for Women is a very effective tool. Those who are within the age group of 20-45 years and whose yearly income are up to rupees forty thousand those divorcee ladies or utterly destitute are given loans at 3% per annum.

West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation: Realization of the project rupees twenty crores have been spent in the year 2008-09. Under the fund for rural infrastructure development Rs. 2 crore was allocated for development of minority areas. Till date Rs. 1.81 crore has been utilized. For the development of minorities in the field of commerce industry and culture this corporation was set up in 1996. The corporation provides loan at low interests to economically backward minorities. In the year 2008-09, Rs. 8953 lakh has been spent in this regard.

Education Loan and Scholarships: The concerned department has been taking consistent steps in this regard. In the year 2008-09, 3336 students have received scholarships. 23238 students received post secondary scholarship (central part) while 6935 got hold of post secondary scholarship (state part). The number of recipients of pre-secondary scholarship stand at 64924.

West Bengal Haj Committee: This committee makes different arrangements for the Haj pilgrims from the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. The state government provides financial assistance for meeting the various expenses of the pilgrims. Rupees 1.50 has already allotted for the construction of the new Hajj building near Kolkata Airport. The total expenditure for the construction of this centre will be Rs. 5 crores. In last season the total number of pilgrims from the state was 7300.To make the entire journey of the religious people safe and comfortable the state government and the Hajj Committee are working together.

Waqf Board: The Waqf Board has been vested with more powers to discharge its work in a more developed and smooth manner. A total amount of Rs. 20 lakh has been allotted. It has been decided that all waqf property under adverse possession or illegal transfer shall be restored and the income, which will be incurred out of the same property shall be spend in the welfare of the Muslim community. Rs. 2 Crore has been given to this board in the year 2009-2010. 8737 properties have already been listed in the waqf schedule. The rent of famous Shaw Wales Building and the Tollygunge club building have been increased by Rs. 7 lakhs. The one time earning has reached to Rs. 2 crore. Now the process of computerized documentation of all waqf property has been commenced.

Urdu Academy: The prime aim of this academy is to propagate and encourage Urdu language and literature. The fundamental works taken by the Academy are educational programmes, announcing scholarship and prizes, printing and publications, running correspondence courses, and providing vocational training. For these purposes the budget allocation for the year 2009-2010 is Rs. 2 crore.

The State government has decided that if someone writes the letter to the government department in Urdu that has to be answered in Urdu only. The government circulars have to be communicated in Urdu in certain places. Many more Urdu medium primary schools will be opened in the Urdu specking areas and soon the vacancies of the teachers will be filled in all Urdu schools.

Already Arabic has been included in Bachelors course in many colleges of the state now the quality of that education has to be developed by the appointment of the efficient teachers. The state Government has already taken initiative to appoint the efficient teachers.

Board of Madrasa Education: The Madrasa education in West Bengal has a glorious history and tradition and keeping this in mind the government has extended the autonomy to the Madrasa Board in the year 1994. The syllabus of Madrasa education has been upgraded and modernized with the commencement of the computer courses in 150 Madrasas and inclusion of technical education in 89 others.

The entire education system has been brought under the fold of Sarba siksha Mission. Government has planned to build 10 Madrasas as centre of excellences. A total number of 8 lakh students are getting themselves educated in 576 Madrasas and 185 Centre for Madrasa Education through out the state.200 child education centre and 300 centers for higher Madrasa Education have been already given affiliation.

We hope that soon these institutions will achieve the reorganization of educational institutions in the academic year 2009-2010.Now we shall look upon the unique characteristics of the Madrasas in West Bengal.

  1. Almost all Madrasas in the state have a co-educational system which is indeed very rare in other states.
  2. Though the High Madrasa is regulated by the Board of Madrasa Education but the Higher Madrasa (i.e. 11,12) comes under higher education council.
  3. Almost all Madrsa have a large number of non Muslim students
  4. A large number of teachers and non teaching staff have also been appointed in the Madrasas including non-Muslims
  5. It can be found that a large number of non Muslims apply for the examination conducted by the Madrasa Education

Commission for the posts of teachers in Madrasas. All these facts demonstrate the deep secular roots of tradition, education and culture of the state and reveals the confidence of the people on the very spirit of secular democracy.
Alia University: The process to establish Alia University has already been initiated, which will gradually become a modern University. The state government has extended all kinds of administrative and financial support to fulfill the dreams of minority community that have been cherished for a long time. I personally dream of having another Cordova or AL Azahar University in our state in the near future.(Source: The Economic Development Report
2009-2010 placed in the State Assembly)

Nationwide a debate concerning the extent of aid that will be rendered to Muslims through the 15% reservation in employment and education is going on. Our state is not also outside this discussion. In the meantime in the month of December 2009 Justice Ranganath Misra's recommendations have been placed in the Parliament. The main features of the recommendations are:

  1. In the matter criteria for identifying backward classes there should be absolutely no discrimination whatsoever between the majority community and the minorities; and, therefore, the criteria now applied for this purpose to the majority community — whatever that criteria may be – must be unreservedly applied also to all the minorities.
  2. All those classes, sections and groups among the minorities should be treated as backward whose counterparts in the majority community are regarded as backward under the present scheme of things.
  3. All those social and vocational groups among the minorities who but for their religious identity would have been covered by the present net of Scheduled Castes should be unquestionably treated as socially backward, irrespective of whether the religion of those other communities recognizes the caste system or not.
  4. The groups among the minorities whose counterparts in the majority community are at present covered by the net of Scheduled Tribes should also be included in that net; and also, more specifically, members of the minority communities living in any Tribal Area from pre-Independence days should be included irrespective of their ethnic characteristics.
  5. As the meaning and scope of Article 30 of the Constitution has become quite uncertain, complicated and diluted due to their varied and sometimes conflicting judicial interpretations, the commission recommend that a comprehensive law should be enacted without delay to detail all aspects of minorities, educational rights under that provision with a view to reinforcing its original dictates in letter and spirit.
  6. Judicial decisions have restricted the minority intake in minority educational institutions to about 50% in order to promote national integration. Thus the remaining 50% or so has been virtually earmarked for the majority community.The commission strongly recommended that, by the same analogy and for the same purpose, at least 15% seats in all non-minority educational institutions should be earmarked by law for the minorities. The break up within the recommended 15% earmarked seats in institutions shall be 10% for the Muslims
  7. As regards the backward sections among all the minorities,the commission recommend that the concessions now available in terms of lower eligibility criteria for admission and lower rate of fee, now available to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, should be extended also to such sections among the minorities.
  8. In the case of the Muslim comunity – who are the largest minority at the national level with a country-wide presence and yet educationally the most backward of religious communities - the commission recommended that select institutions in the country like the Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Millia Islamia should be legally given a special responsibility to promote education at all levels to Muslim students by taking all possible steps for this purpose. At least one such institution should be selected for this purpose in each of those states and Union Territories which has a substantial Muslim population.
  9. In the funds to be distributed by the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation a suitable portion should be earmarked for the Muslims proportionate to their share in the total minority population. Out of this portion funds should be provided not only to the existing Muslim institutions but also for setting up new institutions from nursery to the highest level and for technical and vocational education anywhere in India but especially in the Muslim-concentration areas.
  10. Anganwadis, Navoday Vidyalayas and other similar institutions should be opened under their respective schemes especially in each of the Muslim-concentration areas and Muslim families be given suitable incentives to send their children to such institutions.
  11. As many minorities groups specialize in certain household and small scale industries, the commission recommend that an effective mechanism should be adopted to work for the development and modernization of all such industries and for a proper training of artisans and workmen among the minorities – especially among the Muslims among whom such industries, artisans and workmen are in urgent need of developmental assistance.
  12. As the largest minority of the country, the Muslims, as also some other minorities have a scant or weak presence in the agrarian sector, the commission recommend that special schemes should be formulated for the promotion and development of agriculture, agronomy and agricultural trade among them.
  13. It recommended that effective ways should be adopted to popularise and promote all the self-employment and income-generating schemes among the minorities and to encourage them to benefit form such schemes.
  14. The commission recommends that a 15% share be earmarked for the minorities – with a break-up of 10% for the Muslim (commensurate with their 73% share of the former in the total minority population at the national level) – and 5% for the other minorities in all government schemes like Rural Employment Generation Programme, Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojna, Grameen Rozgar Yojna, etc.
  15. Since the minorities – especially the Muslims – are very much under-represented, and sometimes wholly unrepresented, in government employment, the commission recommends that they should be regarded as backward in this respect within the meaning of that term as used in Article 16 (4) of the Constitution – notably without qualifying the word ‘backward’ with the words “socially and educationally” – and that 15% of posts in all cadres and grades under the Central and State Governments should be earmarked. The break up within the recommended 15% shall be 10% for the Muslims.
  16. It recommended that the reservations are to be extended to the Scheduled Tribes, which is a religion-neutral class, and that it should be carefully examined to assess the extent of minority presence and remedial measures should be initiated to correct the imbalance if any.
  17. The commission recommended that as the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of conscience and religious freedom as a Fundamental Right, once a person has been included in a Scheduled Caste list a willful change of religion on his part should not effect adversely his or her Scheduled Caste status.
  18. The commission felt that in order to enact the recommendations there is no need for amending the constitution. The enactment can be done through parliamentary and administrative orders.

Another significant recommendation of the Mishra commission states “We recommend that para 3 of the Constitution (Schedule Castes) ordent -1950 which originally restricted it to Sikhs and Buddhists, thus still excluding from its purview the Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis etc- should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely delink Scheduled Caste status from religion and make the Scheduled Castes net fully religion central line that of scheduled Tribes”

The other recommendations of the commission are 1) Creation of Parliamentary committee 2) Creation of task force at the state level to look into the minority affairs and 3) Creation of Minority Welfare committee in minority districts.
If we deeply look into the recommendations we will see that ther are mainly three types of recommendations. Firstly directly reserve 15% for the minorities in education and employment. Out of this 10% for the Muslims and the rest 5% for the other minorities. Secondly if that cannot be done then look into OBC reservations of 22%. Within the OBCs the minorities are 8.4%. so out of 22% OBC reservation 8.4% can be reserved for the minorities. Out of this 6% will be for the Muslims and the rest 2.4% for other minorities. Thirdly the scheduled caste list be made secular. Engaged in the same work reservations will be there for Hindu Scheduled castes and it will not apply for Muslims is a strange phenomenon.

After the publication of the report Chief Minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya welcomed it. On 8th February he announced 10% reservations in government jobs for socially, economically and educationally backward Muslims belonging to the OBC list. At present in West Bengal 7% reservation exists for the OBC s. that will be reaching 17% now. The families whose annual income is 4.5 lakh or more annually are to be treated as creamy layer and excluded from the ambit of reservation. At present the reservation will hold good only for jobs . Whether it will extend to education will be decided later and the mechanism will be worked out then. At present 70 groups are there among the OBCs in Bengal. Some more have appealed to the Backward Development Commission. There is a chance of some getting incorporated within the list shortly.

The entire process has to go through three stages. Firstly those Muslim groups are to be identified who can come under the OBC list. Secondly the creamy layer has to be excluded and thirdly they have to be given certificates without any problem.

Muslims constitute one fourth of the total population of the state. Almost 10% Muslims are within the OBC list. Out of 70 groups 13 groups are Muslims. Those in the list are jola (ansari-momin), potidar, kasai, noshya seikh, paharia-muslim, kujra, sershabadi, hajam,beldar, khetta, sarkar, chaudhuli.

Many more can come in the list namely ‘guri’ people who catch small fishes. Their counterpart among the Hindus are in the Scheduled Caste list. In my own village, there is a locality called Guripara. They caught fish and were Muslims. Very recently I was travelling from Beliaghata to Sealdah in Kolkata and suddenly came across Gurimahal para before getting up in the Sealdah bridge. I went down and asked the people in and around there. I came to know that once Muslim Bengali fishermen stayed there. After partition they caught train from Sealdah through Banpur upto Moimonsingha in Bangladesh. They never returned only leaving their name which still happens to identify that area. I have seen roads in Baharampore, Murshidabad by the same name.

Even though very less in number, Dhukris remain. The name itself is strange to hear. Our mothers and grandmothers were fond of stiching “kathas”. The embroidery of the kathas is a very delicate artwork. A similar type of inflated thing called ”dhokra” were also made using unused clothsings. The makers of this product are called dhukuris and they are still found in Murshidabad, Malda and in Amdanga( N 24 Parganas). They also can come in the OBC list. Khalifas are makers of umbrellas. From the Dewansai area in Murshidabad they have spreaded to different parts of the state and the country. In Kolkata in the Poddar court area there is a by lane called” chhatawalagoli”.

The commentary of Radharaman Mitra or P T Nayar had proven that in these areas the umbrellamakers used to live. Anyhow I will not go on furnishing more examples. The groups that can come under OBC list may be like this - mandal, sikdar, majumdar, tatia, kolu, molla, guri, dhukri, pechi, ghoshi, mahaladar, aabdaal, bosni, kankhalifa, behara, dai, sanakar, turki, malo, sabjiwala, mahefras, dhuli, etc.

The work has of inclusion has picked up pace. People can appeal either through form available in the commission’s website or in plain peace of white paper. The commission will have a hearing and thereby decide upon. The commission has the right to call any group and make decisions. It can be said that a large section of Muslim groups will be incorporated in the OBC list once it is finalized.

What are the reasons behind such announcement of the West Bengal government? First consideration is the Constitution, Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) of which speaks for such reservations. Secondly the backwardness of the Muslims is a hard fact which one need not to know by going through the commission’s report. Hindus Muslims live together and everybody is well aware about the day to day realities. The so very discussed and debated Sachar Committee have stated that the socio economic conditions of the Muslims are in a real bad shape and needs to be rectified on an urgent basis. Thirdly the summary of the Ranganath Mishra recommendations which has argued for reservations directly.

Many people are asking whether reservations exists for Muslims in other states of the country. The answer is no. before the Constitution was amended in 1950 in states like Travancore, Saurashtra, and Mysore there were reservations keeping the social considerations in mind. Before the finalization of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly personalities like Jawharlal Neheru , B R Ambedkar, K M Munshi spoke in favour of cancelling all existing reservations and formulate something afresh. But unanimity was not achieved. At that point of time Constitution was the most important consideration for the country and it was adopted. And it is precisely for this reason that there are reservations on the basis of religion in some states like Kerala and it is continuing before independence.

In the states of Tamilnadu, Bihar and Karnataka within the OBC list another list called MBC list have been created. In Tanilnadu and Bihar nearly 95% Muslims have been brought under reservations. It is well known to us that recently the Andhra Pradesh government spoke of 5% reservation for the Muslims which was turned down by the state High Court. The Supreme Court again has taken somewhat positive stand in this regard. The complete verdict is yet to come and we are looking hopefully to the honourable Supreme Court.

The government at the centre seems not to be in a hurry even after the publication of the Ranganath Mishra report. Even no action taken report has also been given. The most important thing is now that the Central government now needs to speak in a frank manner. Recently in Delhi Muslim organisations and eminent personalities met and they have adopted a resolution which states “The participants are convinced that reservation become a universally accepted device for equalizing opportunities in heterogeneous and multi segmented societies. If equality and justice reach the weaker section they are equally convinced that within the democratic framework all deprived and frustrated group have right to place their problems before the bar of the nation and receive their share in the national pie.”

Along with this the resolution mentions “the participants pay their tribute to the Sachar committee which diagnosed the malice and to the Misra Commission which has prescribed the panacea and urge the government the secular parties and the Parliament to dispense the remedial measure urgently.”

So everybody is eagerly looking towards the Central Government, yet no positive steps have been taken by them in this regard. We need to conclude our discussion. The development of the minorities in West Bengal is not a stray incident. It has been an integral part of the democratic movement. And we have to take decision standing on the firm realities. We have to take separate initiatives for the backward Minorities and it will overall strengthen our process of development.

Many speak of minority appeasement. We as Leftists believe that the minorities are persons not to be looked down upon - they are people craving for justice. With this belief all of our work has to be planned.

In West Bengal the government while striving to improve the common man's life, has not discriminated based on their religion. Poor people always have been the greatest consideration of the LF government. Muslims, Adivasis, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are comparatively poorer - hence their development has to be prioritized.

If some people raise the slogan of appeasement in order to oppose these affirmative steps, they will definitely be isolated and their ulterior motives identified. Development will be ensured through the path of mass movement. The Left has always believed in the development of common man independent of caste, creed, religion, language, race and will continue to do so. In no way can we deviate from our ideals.

Courtesy: http://www.pragoti.org/node/4119


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