The Muslim Reservation Movement (MRM) was launched in 2004 before the Sachar Commission’s report was out, without any idea of General/Pasmanda Muslim denominations, with the sole call for reservation to Muslims, who had long been discriminated against. Since then, the MRM has conducted more than a dozen zonal conferences, three state-level conferences, over five dozen public meetings and a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. It has representatives from more than 40 districts in UP. But nothing has happened. Today there is a new romance between the Pasmanda (Backward and Dalit) Muslims and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Will this love materialize? Perhaps never.
During his visit to Hyderabad in July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for ‘sneh’ (affection) towards the Pasmanda Muslims, which has triggered a debate within Muslim communities, which are bent to befool themselves that the BJP will help the Pasmanda Muslims. Telangana, ironically, is the place where the BJP had thwarted the attempts to allow Muslims have reservation. It was in 2004 when Congress Chief Minister YSR Reddy had announced a five percent quota for needy Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions. The move was challenged by the BJP and was subsequently stayed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The BJP has always maintained that reservation can never be given on religious basis.
I have been constantly advocating for SC reservation for Muslims but nothing has materialized, despite the Sachar Report and Justice Ranganath Mishra Report. Both the reports remained a far-cry despite the 10 years of UPA rule, even in the wake of PM Manmohan Singh’s statement that minorities have the first right over the nation's resources.
Reservation for Muslims is a major component in the renewed discourse on the Pasmanda Muslims. Muslims are on the worst stage of any government representation. When the Congress-led government could do little to grant them reservation, how would the BJP do it?
Reservation is embedded in the Article (15) clause IV of our Constitution, which says that special laws can be enacted for the advancement of Social and Backward Classes or Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Article 16 (4) says that nothing shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation in appointments or posts in favour of any Backward Class of citizen which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented.
Muslims and Christians can never qualify for the SC status as it was blocked through a 1950 order, which says that no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu [the Sikh or the Buddhist] religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste. This is despite the Constitution underlining in its Article 341(1) that the President may with respect to any State or Union Territory notify the caste, races or tribes or parts of groups to be deemed as Scheduled Caste. Will the BJP government amend the previous notification to help the Muslim and Christian Dalits?
The MRM had sought a 9 percent quota for Muslims within the 27 reservation granted to the OBCs. This is purely the prerogative of state governments and can be given to the Muslims in the wake of the Supreme Court order in Indira Sawhney vs Union of India (1992). Will Narendra Modi accord the desired status to the Pasmanda Muslims? Else, his call will remain a farce.
When the Congress-led UPA could not implement the Ranganath Mishra Report which had recommended that Dalit (Pasmanda) Muslims deserve to be enlisted alongside the Hindu/Buddhist and Sikh Dalits, to expect anything of such kind from the BJP would be a wishful thinking.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a lawyer.