Sunday, October 23, 2005

Muslim reservation

Congress introduced reservation for Muslims in Andhra sometime back. They then dutifully followed that in the Aligarh Muslim University. (Both termed illegal by the courts ofcourse) Now we have RJD, LJP and the Congress promising reservations for Muslims in the Bihar elections. Worse DMK and the ADMK have followed suit in Tamilnadu. So are we looking at the symptoms of a massive epidemic which is going to damage the secular fabric of India forever? And damage it surely will!

Let us for a moment 'naively' believe that this is a case of increased representation of religious minorities. To begin with please help me understand the term 'religious minority'. How are Muslim's a minority in India? They are not a numerical minority like some other religions (Jains, Buddhists etc). They are not a migrant community who have come and settled here (Parsis, Jews). Most of them if not all are of Indian Origin. They are not an oppressed community either. Infact Muslims have been the dominant community for close to a thousand years now. RSS leader Sudharshan recently said that "simply changing the way you worship doesn't make you a minority". While his views contain the obvious Hindutva mischief, it confuses my understanding of the term 'religious minority' nevertheless. Interestingly no politician is promising reservation for other non-hindu religions, which incidentally are much smaller in size. In other words the Muslims are supposed to get minority reservation simply because they are not a minority at all!

Let us upgrade ourselves from 'naive' to 'sociologist' and consider this reservation as a means to improve the condition of Indian Muslims, which ofcourse is far worse than other communities. I will be pretty surprised if the overall literacy rate among North Indian Muslims is much better than that of Afghanistan! The places where the Muslims are in majority like Kashmir, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra and the slums of Mumbai should rank among the poorest regions of the world! I bet the living conditions in the border regions (with Bangladesh) of West Bengal would make sub-Saharan Africa look like utopia! It should be obvious that Muslims in better ruled states of this country lead a considerably better life than those in the above mentioned regions. What will Muslims achieve with reservation in states which are going nowhere? If most of the educational institutions you seem to get are madrasas, why do you need reservation at all? A professor at Aligarh Muslim University recently quipped "Which company will employ my students if they come through quotas?" Muslims will be far better off getting compulsory primary education than getting reservation in useless colleges and stinking government offices!

Let us now become 'pragmatic' and consider this reservation for what it is - shameless votebank politics! It should be obvious for anyone that this reservation is more for the parties to "reserve" their share in the Muslim votebank than for the good of the Muslims themselves. You only have to look at the campaign slogans of the political parties in Bihar to understand the state of affairs. Paswan wants a Muslim Chief Minister! (Whatever happened to secular press?) Laloo calls them MY (Muslim and Yadavs) votes. And Advani asks Muslims to choose between Abdul Kalam and Osama Bin Laden! Ofcourse we have Mullah Omar and Laden himself campaigning as lookalikes!! Besides there is the perennial comedy of Karunanidhi licking his Ramzan soup while claiming to be atheist. If secularism can be so glaringly converted to Muslim appeasement, how can we blame the Hindu nationalists for whatever they are doing? Will an average Hindu feel happy for a Muslim who gets more privileges simply because he invariably votes for the party that gives him undue privileges?

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