There is no dearth of research on the status of Muslims in India. Besides a number of government reports, including those prepared by Gopal Singh Panel and Sachar Committee, several books and articles have been penned and papers read by the experts. Recently a status paper on the Muslims in India, prepared by renowned journalist Qurban Ali and eminent political scientist Arshi Khan, was presented at the International Conference on Dalits and Muslims, organised by Lok Janashakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan in New Delhi on December 27-28, 2006. The status paper prepared more than a month after the submission of the Sachar Report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, throws light on some aspects not touched by Sachar Report. Therefore, the full text of the status paper along with a note is herewith given.
The main purpose of this part of the Status Paper is to situate the Muslims of the country in the context of their stakes in the governance, development and capacity building in the Federal Nation-India. The preface of this paper begins and ends with the formulation that merely the existence of laws, policies, and institutions for protection, welfare and participation are not important in the given context. It is more important to know who will implement them. This can be better understood by the Sachhar Committee Report and more by the Gopal Singh Committee, which by studying 80 districts in the country in 1983 found the problem of inaccessibility of loans and many other schemes of the government to the Muslims in several sectors.
In other words, Indian State has large number of Criminal Procedure Codes and constitutional laws but they fail to be implemented against those who (particularly political actors belonging to the majority community) commits communal offences. And, though there is the police force to provide security to the people, there is a common feeling among majority of the Muslims that they are worried of security from the police. It is because of the lack of adequate participation of the Muslims in governmental institutions which result in either non-implementation of laws and schemes or misuse of such privileges.
The paper is also focused on two major aspects of the problems of the Muslims in the country. They are protection of their rights and their participation in the structures of power and influence. Another formulation implied in this paper is to establish the fact that Muslims are doubly victims of discriminations, based on communal considerations, as well as the serious victims of backwardness, deprivation, and exclusion in public life. Therefore, as the last formulation in this paper is to identify the Muslim Community as a Backward Class of Citizens who certainly need immediate special measures to ensure their participation in public life in order to accomplish 'Inclusive Democracy' in the country.
To begin with, it needs to be made very clear that it is the responsibility of the government at all levels to protect the rights of the Muslims, to make adequate distribution of national resources to the backward Muslim community, to address their legitimate claims and needs, and to equalize them with others for leading a dignified life. Drafters of the Minority Rights law were no doubt genius in providing 'institutional reality' and fully depended on the 'autamacity' of the liberal democracy. On the contrary, we are yet to visit 'operational reality' of the safeguards for minorities available in the Constitution. It is also important to note that 'empowerment' is a necessary prerequisite for self-protection.
The current view of protection is more 'paternalistic', constitutional guarantees resulting as empty promises. Scholars like Francesco Palermo and Jens Woelk of the European Academy, Italy claim that democratic principles require constant readjustment through legal applications. It is now our duty to re-understand that Minority Rights are measures that enable minorities to perform under the same conditions as majorities and thus are not special privileges. In this context, it is very important to mention that a new Federal India based on Justice and Equality can be rebuilt only when we accept 'diversity' both a 'principle' and 'value' in our State and Society. This can be achieved by us when we are prepared both to learn about democracy and to live with it.
For this we should look at the Lund's findings. The famous Lund Recommendations (1999) on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life, named after the Swedish city, was the result of the collective efforts of liberal Europe which stressed on human rights obligations including, in particular freedom from discrimination. The document agreed on the principle that the ultimate object of all human rights is the full and free development of the individual human personality in conditions of equality and the objective of good and democratic governance is to serve the needs and interests of the whole population. It finally called for participation in governance of the State as a whole, and self-governance over certain local or internal affairs. We also need to be aware of the fact that there is Constitutional Supremacy in India. Over the years, Indian Parliament has shown its mettle in legislations for the advancement of the backward classes.
Download: Status Paper on Muslims