Muslims remain truly excluded
New Delhi, November 17
Maintaining silence on the issue of reservations for Muslims, the Rajinder Sachar Committee today said that the community was lagging behind other religious groups in development and asked the government to frame programmes to address its educational and economic backwardness.The Sachar Committee findings are likely to trigger an involved debate in the Muslim community with reactions ranging from demand for quotas, affirmative action to sharply enhanced spending on education targeted at districts with high Muslim populations. 

The quota demand is seen to be more or less inevitable though Kamal Farooqui, secretary, All India Personal Law Board, said that reservations could quickly get politicised and may face legal hurdles. 

"On the basis of this report, it may be considered whether the community can be given greater access to education by spending more on schools and colleges," he said. 

While Farooqui does not speak of new quotas altogether, he does suggest that a "specific" percentage be fixed in the 27% OBC quota. 

While this would be with regard to OBC Muslims, he also said that the findings could be considered by the National Commission of Linguistic and Religious Minorities as to whether the community as a whole could be classified as "backward". 

Jamait-Ulama-i-Hind's spokesperson Abdul Hamid Numani is clearly in favour of reservations for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions. 

Terming reservations as a means to bring about "upliftment" of the minority community Numani said: "The condition of Muslims in the country is worse off than Dalits and Scheduled Tribes. 

There seems to be no other way to improve these conditions but reservations. Discrimination against the community must also be stopped."
Supporting the Sachar Committee report, Numani said that the Committee had given a correct perspective of the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims. "This is the most authentic survey so far regarding the community. It has opened a new path for us," he added. 

Mohammed Hamid Ansari, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, is more in favour of "affirmative action" rather than just reservations. 

"I feel that there is need to look at a wider spectrum of affirmative action along with controlled reservation," he said. Ansari felt that reservations in government jobs could prove to be of limited impact. 

On the Sachar Committee report, Ansari said that the report had not revealed anything new and most of these facts were known. It was, however, important to look at the report from a nation's perspective. 

"Is it in the larger interest of the country that Muslims who constitute about 140 million of our population and who are identified as socially, economically and educationally backward be lagging behind," he questioned. 

Farooqui made the point that the greatest emphasis, to bring about a betterment in the socio-economic conditions of Muslims, would have to be in the field of education. 

"Can the government think of spending more on residential schools for Muslim students? Let Muslim institutions seek funds from abroad in a legal and transparent manner to build more colleges," he said. 

He said there was a need for the Sachar report to be utilised in a "responsible" manner and avoid politicking that would raise demands that would become politically contentious. Such data is necessary for planning and implementing specific programmes to address issues relating to the socio-economic backwardness of any disadvantaged group, he said.


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