Pasmanda Muslims: Living in the shadows!

By Sharique N Siddiquie | Updated: Jan 14, 2008, 00:00 AM IST

Yusuf Ansari

The quest for reservation is not new in this country. In the past 60 years of independence, there have been many castes that were given reservations depending upon their social status and requirements. But, in this hurry to bring equity in society, some castes that required reservation for growth were left out. They were the Pasmanda (have nots) Muslims, or the Muslims belonging to the weakest and most backward section of society.

In the last days of the winter session of Parliament, Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar demanded that the report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission be tabled, but didn’t get any support from any other Member of Parliament. Apart from the DMK, no other political party supported his demand.

First, it is essential to mention briefly, the contents of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission report. This commission was to submit its report on the situation of linguistic minorities. Also, it was to give its views on whether there are Scheduled Castes in Muslims? If yes, then what is their situation in the country and how can it be improved?

In its report, the commission strongly recommended the Scheduled Caste reservations be given to the backward castes of minority communities. Till now, SC reservation has been given only to castes that belong to the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities.

In his report, Justice Mishra has recommended SC status for those Muslims whose occupational Hindu counterparts come under it. He has also recommended that Scheduled Castes that convert to Christianity should continue enjoying SC status.

In the reports of Justice Sachar Commission, it was said that the condition of Muslims is worse than that of recognized Scheduled Castes in India. But what Justice Sachar couldn’t recommend, Justice Mishra recommended with full emphasis.

If these recommendations are implemented then almost 40 to 50 percent castes of the Muslim community will be benefited . This will also pave the way for backward Muslims to fight elections in the reserved constituencies.

The ball now is in the central government’s court as to whether it will keep the Dalits of the Christian community under SC category. On a petition filed by Scheduled Caste Christians in the Supreme Court, the central government has filed an affidavit saying that it will inform the court after deciding on Justice Ranganath Mishra’s report. It is evident, that if Christians are given reservation then it will also make way for similar provisions for the Muslims.

Now, the question that arises here is, why is the Muslim leadership keeping mum about such an important issue? Why, hasn’t a single Muslim MP demanded the implementation of this report, in spite of the fact that the commission had submitted its report eight months ago to the Prime Minister?

Sachar Committee report was tabled in the Parliament in December last year. Since then, all Muslim organizations tried to create pressure on the government for its implementation. Muslim leaders, especially Minority Affairs minister AR Antulay, Deputy Speaker of Rajya Sabha K Rahman Khan and state minister for Human Resource M A A Faatmi started ’dinner diplomacy’ by inviting all Muslim MP’s to pressurize the government into implementing it.

But all these leaders are keeping mum over the Justice Mishra Commission report. More shocking still is that most of the Muslim MPs were not even aware of this report. They were more busy in raising emotional issues than in looking into serious matters of Muslim uplift.

No one raised the issue of Justice Mishra report in Rajya Sabha barring Ali Anwar. This issue was not even raised in the Lok Sabha. It should be noted that out of 543 MPs of 14th Lok Sabha, there are only 36 Muslim. Among them, only 3 MPs are from the backward castes, namely, Furkan Ansari from Godda (Jharkhand), Haji Akhlaq Qureshi from Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) and Atiq Ahmad from Phoolpur (Uttar Pradesh). In the 13th Lok Sabha, there was not a single MP from the backward Muslim castes.

The representation of backward caste Muslims has always been low since independence. The count of MPs never reached double figures. There have been more than 4000 MPs since independence. Out of these there have only been 400 Muslim MPs. Of these, only 60 were from the backward castes.

Looking at the whole issue from population point of view, there are 15 crores Muslims in India. This means that there should be at least 62 Muslim MPs in a particular term. More than 75 percent of the total Muslim population is from backward castes. So, these castes should have 45 MPs at the very least. But the irony is that, there are not as many Muslim MPs, let alone from backward castes.

Now, the question arises here is whether the Pasmanda Muslim community will continue its support to the current leadership? Or, will they try to adapt to the changing times and develop a new leadership among themselves to make their voice heard.

The Pasmanda Muslims require a leadership that is not only secular in its ideology but should also be oriented towards development. This is the basic requirement for the uplift of this very downtrodden section of society.

Adaptation By: Sharique N Siddiquie