Reservation will not help Muslims, will only open Pandora’s box (Comment)

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed, IANS
Sunday, December 20, 2009

The way to hell, we are told, is paved with good intentions.

The Ranganath Mishra Commission report, tabled in the winter session of parliament, recommends 15 percent reservation for all minorities in government jobs, education and welfare schemes, of which 10 percent quota is for Muslims - the largest minority in the country.

Be it Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Muslim Dalits or other so-called minorities for that matter, reservations are a menace for the entire system. On the otherwise secular and composite fabric of India, reservations are a thorn in the neck.

Reservations will not help Muslims.

Rather they must tell the government to open more schools in their areas than police stations. Instead of fighting over smaller slices of a small pie of the national income, what is needed is the expansion of the national pie which would help everyone to get their rightful and bigger share. The oppressed and the marginalized people need expansion of opportunities rather than favours from the state.

As a law abiding Indian Muslim, I feel that words such as reservation, minority, majority be deleted from the Indian Constitution in the context of quotas based on caste or religion. Umpteen reservations including the minorities, SC/ST, Kashmiri migrants and army personnel have already affected the consideration for going in for merit.

I want the minorities to have an honourable place by having to stop looking at charity in the form of quota and accept the challenge of a competitive life.

That some politically motivated scholars are in favour of reservations is shocking in the sense that they want the Indian Muslim community to go in for the begging bowl rather than to compete and make a dent in the field of merit.

Those advocating Muslims’ reservations must note that ostrich mentality is never going to help Muslims. If they accept quotas, whatever merit we see today, too will wane as nobody would like to work hard and compete. They have to perform or perish!

It would be worth examining as to what the founding fathers say about reservations. Interestingly, both Sardar Patel and C. Rajgopalachari did vehemently support the charter of providing political safeguards to the minorities according to articles 292 and 294 of the 1949 draft constitution, but five leaders out of seven, namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hussainbhoy Laljee and Tajammul Hussain opposed it.

Fact remains and history has proved it that reservations on communal lines are not in the interest of national unity and integrity as it might start a chain reaction among other religious groups as well. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, while addressing on democratization in an important session of the Constituent Assembly on May 26, 1949, said, “If you seek to give safeguards to a minority, you isolate it… Maybe, you protect it to a slight extent but at what cost - at the cost of isolating and keeping it away from the main current.”

The problem with this kind of lop-sided reservation is that the real beneficiaries of reservation may be the economically well-off “backward community” members who generation after generation reap the benefits at the expense of the real needy from the general sections as has been seen in the case of the 22.5 percent quotas in the institutions of higher education like the IIMs, IITs etc. The government needs to put a stop to such abuses.

Opines lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi, “I am not against reservation but I am against this type of reservation. Reservations should not be based on caste. Indeed government has a duty to provide education equally to everybody but when the government is asking for reservation in education, it is actually showing its inability to give education to everybody within the present educational infrastructure.”

K.R. Malkani, former BJP vice president, wrote in his treatise on Indian Muslims that according to the United Nations, the group that’s identified as a minority is one that by religion, language, ethnicity or culture constitutes less than 10 percent of the population of a state.

As per this statute, the Muslims were a minority decades ago but now they are not. In fact, they are the second majority. Malkani also states that nowhere in the 52-odd Muslim countries or, for that matter, anywhere in the world where Muslims are a majority, do non-Muslims have the privileges, protection and rights that India offers to the minorities.

It is time that we Indians give up this ghettoized minority-majority mindset. Voices of reason demand that educational standards and qualifications should be uniform, whatever the language, religion or region.

So far as the Muslim community is concerned, the reservations’ process will be wrought with imperfections as the community is divided into umpteen castes and sub-castes, a system that has percolated in them through their Hindu neighbourhoods.

Muslims have four major caste divisions, namely - Ashraf at the top (Syed, Sheikh, Mughal and Pathan), Atraj, the second rung (Rajput, Tyagi, Thakur, Jaat etc), Azrab, the third rung (Julahe, Kunjre, Darzi, Mirasi, Qasab, Naiee, Mahigir etc), and Azlab, at the lowest rung (Halalkhor, Chamar, Lalbezi etc).

If the Muslims as a minority, are given the reservations, the Ashraf and Atraj would be deprived of it, which would again create a virtual pandemonium. Fact is that in many cases amongst Muslims, as also in Hindus, the lower rung people are fairly well placed in comparison to the ones belonging to higher castes!

My suggestion is that financial aid be granted on the basis of performance instead of seat reservation.

(20-12-2009-Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social and educational issues. He can be contacted at

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