“Everything belongs to this country and every citizen of this country has equal claim and right to it, irrespective of his faith, caste, colour and creed.” Expressing his view at the seminar on “Socio-Economic Deprivation of Muslims: Search for Action and Strategy in the light of Sachar Committee Findings and Recommendations”, organised by the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) at the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) on January 20, 2007, Dr Kumar Rajiv, Visiting Professor, Department of Management Studies, Jodhpur University, Rajasthan, asked the second largest community of India not to be afraid of being Muslim. The one-day seminar was participated among others by Dr Ausaf Ahmad, former head of special assignments, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, and Editor, “Mutalle’at”, published by IOS; Najmi Waziri, Advocate, Standing Counsel, Delhi Waqf Board; Mushtaque Ahmed Alig, Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India; Prof Mujeebur Rahman, Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Prof P M Kulkarni, Centre for Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi; Dr Tanvir Fazal, Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; and Dr M Manzoor Alam and Dr Z M Khan, Chairman and Secretary General of the IOS, respectively.
Dr Kumar Rajiv in his paper on “Economic Progress and Muslim Participation in the Economy and Public Employment” said the main issue was that “you have to be Muslim first by practice, only then you can be a good citizen of India”. According to him, the Muslims suffered from double discrimination---the first being a minority and second, most backward in economy pyramid. Posing a question, he said why this sorry state of affairs only for Muslims while the nation was having these days 8-9 per cent GDP growth rate.
In his own words, a three-prone strategy was needed: i. Formation of cooperative societies, ii. Mass mobilization, and iii. Vote on the condition of commitment to Sachar Committee Report.
Dwelling in detail the mechanism of cooperative societies, Dr Rajiv said that the societies formed by the Muslims could manufacture and market products being used in every household on a daily basis and didn’t require high-end technology. The products could be the pulses, spices, soaps, common salt, bakery products, edible and non-edible oils, cold storages, ice factories, textiles, wooden furniture, leather goods, perfumes, costumes, chemicals, clay, stone cutting and crushing iron and steel utensils, agricultural equipments, electric motors, cycle parts, paints, enamels, foundry casting, dairy products etc.
According to him, through this the entire society would get cheaper items as middlemen would be cut off and the cooperative societies would get profit and in this way a large number of Muslim youth would get employment.
“If these societies would produce quality items and create a brand for itself, it would be able to revolutionise the whole economic scenario as has been done by Amul and many other societies of women,” he asserted.
Earlier, Dr Ausaf Ahmad in his deliberation on “Muslim Perspective and Strategies for the Development of Muslims in India” said the High Level Committee (HLC) Report had taken up the issues of identity, housing, entry to good educational institutions and employment in particular besides other issues. According to him, the HLC Report was probably the first official document after Independence, recognising that Muslims were faced with an issue of identity that hindered an effective solution to other problems faced by the Muslims of India.
Elaborating important missing factors---mindset with communal identities and communal attitudes, communal rioting, and security concerns and historical factors with partition and its aftermath, fear psychosis---,he emphasised upon a positive mindset, willingness to grow and work hard, participation in national life, and suggested an enlightened leadership with a vision for future.
Finally, Dr Ahmad declared: “If India remains weak, backward and poor, the Indian Muslims can’t be rich and poor. However, there is a danger that India may develop and prosper, but Indian Muslims would remain in the backwaters of development---poor, backward and deprived. Therefore, more than any body else it is their own responsibility to see that it doesn’t happen.”
Mushtaque Ahmed Alig was of the view that Andhra Pradesh High Court had struck down the state government decision of reservation to the Muslim community on the ground that homework was not done properly, not declared it unconstitutional. Delivering his lecture on “Sustainability of Sachar Committee Report in the light of the Judicial Pronouncements”, he hoped Sachar Report which is an evidence document, would stand to the test.
Najmi Waziri in his talk on “Management of Awqaf in India and its Implications for Development” said that in chapter 11 of the Sachar Report, there was a talk on Awqaf. Therefore, the Muslim community should take it up in a planned way.
Tracing back the history of backwardness of the community concerned in the light of the findings of Hunter, Gopal Singh Panel and now Sachar Committee, Prof Mujibur Rahman, in his talk on “Issues in Educational Development of Muslms in India” said it was now a proven fact that the Muslims were worse than any other community in the country.
Expressing his view on “Role of Muslims in Electoral Politics and Utilisation of Political Avenues in the Whole System”, Dr Z M Khan said: “As India is a major participatory democracy in the world, there are a lot of avenues for the Muslim community too, but the condition is how they utilise them.”
He said the constitutional provisions were important, but more participation in development was a must. He also discussed the issues of hate mechanism and malpractices during polls and stereotype portrayal of Muslims.
Replying to a question by this scribe, he said federal structure as suggested by the great freedom fighter, statesman and poet, Hasrat Mohani, was an idea put up in the early 1920s and also in the Constituent Assembly, but it was now not relevant. However, he also said that today’s India was not devoid of federal values and spirit in the wake of coalition politics in practice for more than three decades in one way or the other.
Speaking on “Demographic Dividends and Muslim Youth” Prof P M Kulkarni said any dividend was important to the country’s economy, but in term of numbers and potential, the youth have a special significance and importance. He refuted the Sangh Parivar propaganda that the demographic trend of the Muslim community was a threat to India’s heritage and secular values.
Throwing light on “Diversity among the Indian Muslim OBCs”, Dr Tanveer Fazal said: “The Constitution recognises only three social categories for the purpose of reservation. They are the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and socially and educationally backward classes or other backward classes (OBCs). Of these two categories, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes ate fairly well-defined but it is only the definition of OBCs that remains ambiguous and hence, a bone of contention.”
In the wake of this ambiguousness, he offered the following 4-point suggestion:
- We should bifurcate the OBC category into OBCs and MBCs. This would invariably bring a large number of Muslim OBCs in the MBC category. Bihar provides the test case. The Kalekar Commission had, in fact, recommended on these lines.
- More number of Muslim groups should be included in the OBC and MBC lists. The Sachar Committee Report identifies a number of discrepancies between the State lists and Central lists.
- The ‘Arzals’ among Muslims or Dalit Muslims as they call themselves, should be extended the benefits of the Scheduled Castes reservation.
- All these efforts would be of no avail if the private sector is also not brought within the ambit of reservation.
IOS Chairman Dr Manzoor Alam said that as opined by one of his journalist friends, Sachar Committee has, no doubt, given a tool in the hands of the Muslim community. Therefore, it was high time the community used it in its favour and came out of the backwardness, he added.
Dr Alam, who is also an economist, said since its inception in 1987, the IOS has brought out more than 30 books dealing with different aspects of the status of the Muslim community in India. So, what has come out in form of Sachar Report was in line with the research work done in the recent past by IOS and other groups as well as individuals, besides Gopal Singh Panel findings, he asserted.
He, however, stressed the need for pondering over the Sachar Report now from the implementation point of view. For this, the community concerned would have to come forward and mobilise both the public and political opinions.
The thought-provoking one-day seminar ended with a 9-point resolution.
Also See IOS Seminar on Sachar Report: 9-Point Resolution