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Avoid quota politics

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Since Union Minister for Minority Affairs Rahman Khan is trying to make the nation believe that he is genuinely interested in the weal of Indian...

Since Union Minister for Minority Affairs Rahman Khan is trying to make the nation believe that he is genuinely interested in the weal of Indian Muslims, he should think of such measures for their socio-economic-educational improvements as would not displease other communities and minorities.

He has repeated his pet demand that 4.5% of quota be created for Muslims out of the 27% reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The Andhra Pradesh High Court had struck down the recommendation for a sub-quota for minorities. Yet, the Minister believes that, since several commissions and the Sachar Committee have testified to the educational backwardness of Muslims, the community might be deemed by the judiciary as deserving of such a concession.

Khan’s argument, which is yet to be tested, is that since the earlier proposal had called for a sub-quota for minorities, and not Muslims alone, the AP High Court had struck it down on the ground that it clubbed a heterogeneous group of minorities under one umbrella without evidence to back its rationale. Therefore, the minister believes that such a sub-quota were to be sought not for ‘minorities’ but for Muslims, the higher judiciary might see the logic behind it, such logic as it is believed to have.

Khan has, in a note of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, has said the sub-quota out of the OBC reservations had hit the roadblock because it smacked of being a religious quota aimed at minorities. The use of “minority” in place of “Muslim” had brought five religious groups under the ambit of the policy, and they included “prosperous Parsis”, and diluted the evidence in favour of affirmative action. He has quoted the models of Andhra, Karnataka, and Kerala as “the way forward”. There the reservation is only for Muslims and not for minorities, and it has been upheld by courts, he has argued. But the Minister has conveniently refrained from explaining what the basis for such reservations for Muslims could be if not that they are a religious minority.

As for their socio-economic-educational backwardness, they are covered by the 27% quota earmarked for OBCs. Indeed, backward classes of Muslims are entitled to all the benefits that non-Muslim OBCs get. Khan cannot have it both ways. It would make sense if he were to demand that benefits conferred on all OBCs be increased so that those for their Muslim component are also increased. To argue instead that Muslims alone should be entitled to 4.5% sub-quota, leaving other minorities out of the benefit, would be unfortunate, if not communal.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), always on the lookout for a stick to beat Muslims with, has already accused Khan of attempting to appease Muslims with parliamentary elections round the corner. The UPA government is already neck-deep in charges of various kinds, from shielding corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to being soft on multinationals. It can, therefore, do very well without another charge; that of communalizing the polity.

An eminent Muslim intellectual who is respected nationally had once said that if the functioning of the Wakf Boards throughout the country was streamlined, there would be no need for a single Muslim to seek anybody’s assistance for pursuing studies. Therefore, the likes of Khan should devote their attention to ridding wakf boards of corruption and making them spend all their huge income on the weal of the Muslim community.

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