Loud Thinking on Welfare of Indian Muslims
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The issues concerning Muslims are many; from profiling, security, education, jobs, poverty reduction, and economic participation to social and political empowerment. However, there is no agreement on the agenda and the course of action to be followed to address these anomalies. In order to grapple with this issue, a meeting of the Muslim MPs and intellectuals was organised on 14 July 2009, by NEFM in New Delhi.
The round table meeting was chaired by the Union Minister of Minority Affairs, Salman Khursheed and attended by several MPs and other eminent persons from the Muslim community. The deliberations at the meeting resulted in six point recommendations that need to be followed for the welfare of the community. They are as follows:
1. Correction of the religion based discriminatory Clause (3) under Article 341 of the Constitution, which was imposed by a Presidential Order 1950. The existence of this Clause contradicts the secular character of our constitution, which is mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution and guaranteed under Article 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution “that no discrimination will be made to its citizens based on gender, caste, religion etc.” And yet Muslims and Christians face religion based discrimination under this infamous Presidential Order 1950.
2. Fair Share under the OBC quota, wherein based on the Mandal Commission recommendations, Muslims OBC castes constitute one third (8.4%) of the 27%. Muslims, like Hindus MBCs, have not got their share in OBC reservation, as few powerful castes take away the chunk of the OBC quota, say Yadavs in Northern India. Therefore based on the pattern of South Indian states like Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, OBCs, MBCs and Muslim OBCs may be given Quota within Quota, as per their share. This will be in total conformity with the spirit of reservation, where all get Justice, a Just and a Fair Share.
3. Affirmative Actions for their effective participation in the national mainstream by accessing education and economic opportunities through a set of Affirmative Actions. Through Special Component Plan of Rs. 25,000 crores, an annual budget of Rs. 15,000 crores may be created for modernisation of the Madarsa educational network and for opening new educational institutions for Muslims under 85:15 ratio, wherein 85% grant is by Government of India and 15% by the Muslim community. Another Budget of Rs. 10,000 crores to be created for their large scale skills development programs, creation of small enterprises and other economic opportunities.
4. Equitable Distribution under the spending by all economic ministries of the Central Government. The appointment of a Monitoring Officer in each ministry or mandating the Ministry of Minority Affairs to ask for status report on quarterly basis of the adherence to the 15% spending for minorities (10% exclusively for Muslims) would serve the purpose.
5. Safety, Security and Sensitivity towards minorities: Suitable law may be passed by the Parliament for the protection of minorities by covering them under the Criminal Act, on par with the SC/ST Criminal Act. This will ensure that harassment and profiling of minorities is not done. And in cases of riots, blasts and terrorist activities, even before the preliminary investigations are done, some Muslim names are flashed in media, which not only affects the investigations, but create very negative perception about Muslims in the society. Similarly, in cases of riots, strict punishment to those responsible, compensation to the victims, (Rs. 25 lacs and jobs to the dependents of the victims) and time bound enquiry and adoption of reports, will stop any riots in future.
6. As special measure it was recommended to constitute four committees to help the community: 1. Setting up of Indian Minorities Economic Development Agency, 2 Setting up of National Level Monitoring and Response Centre, 3. Setting of a political affairs committee, 4. Setting of a Committee on Education Affairs.
In addition, it was suggested to form an advisory committee for the Ministry comprising of twelve to fifteen members that may meet once a month to discuss the issues concerning minorities, suggest agenda and action and monitor various programs.
Earlier, making a presentation before the august gathering, MJ Khan, President, NEFM emphasized the need to work out a clear agenda for the development of the community. He highlighted the need for a proactive approach and divided the agenda between; A) Action by the Government and B) Action by the Community, and further categorized them as; a) Social and Political, b) Governance and Developmental.
A- Agenda for the Government
Social and Political: a) Proportionate Political Representation to Minorities, as for Dalits in India, b) Expanding overall OBC quota, including more Muslim castes as in many States and trifurcation of OBC Reservation, c) Removal of Article 341 (3) the religion based discriminatory clause Profiling of Muslims, d) Code for investigating officials and media Safety and Security – Control of riots, e) Acceptance of Enquiry reports, accountability, deterrent punishments and equal compensation, f) Annual report to be released by Home / Minority Affairs Ministry on Minorities Level of Confidence in States, and ranking them on the same.
Governance and Developmental: a) Equal opportunities commission, b) Waqf properties documentation, vacation, valuation and commercialization c) 85:15 ratio basis education scheme, d) ITI status to those Madarsas, meeting the criteria, d) Special Monitoring Officer for minority schemes in each Ministry / PMO or MMA e) Special Component Plan for Minorities of Rs. 25,000 crore
B- Agenda for the Community
Social and Political: a) Setting up a Monitoring and Response Centre for research, response, coordination and delivery at the National and State levels
b) Image building exercise c) Coordination on major political and social issues and meetings the Government.
Economic and Developmental: a) Operationalising an Economic Development Agency, b) Large Scale programs Mission Skills, c) Creating awareness and empowerment to access major Governmental schemes like SSA, RGURM, NREGA, NRHM, PMEGP, NHM etc.
Speaking on the occasion Union Minister of Minority Affairs, Salman Khursheed said neither he nor his Government is against the tabling of the Mishra Commission report in the Parliament, and will decide appropriately on its timing and presenting the Action Taken Report. He elaborated, while Sachar Committee report has diagnosed the problem, Mishra Commission report provides solution to them.
The minister suggested that there is need for Muslims to take maximum benefit of the mass scale schemes such as NREGA, PMEGP, RGURM, RKVY, NRHM etc. He agreed fully to the need of Government coming up with a special economic development package for minorities aimed at creating better educational facilities, more employment and skills development for self-employment opportunities.
Mr. Khursheed concurred to the demand for removal of religion based discriminatory clause 3 under Article 341. He said, such religion based discrimination under our secular Constitution has no place in our democratic country and added that the Government is in seize of the matter and the same has been recommended by the National Schedule Castes Commission, besides Mishra Commission.
Speakers after speakers at the meeting highlighted that the time has offered us a historic opportunity, where the Government is in know of the Muslims problems and seems keen to deliver the solutions. Therefore the community must seize the opportunity and approach their problems in a business like mode and prepare a clear road map and a clear action plan for the development of the community. There was a total unanimity among the speakers for a proactive approach of the Muslim community if they want to embark on the development path and reap the benefits of the secular and democratic state.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org