The word reservation — misused by political parties to befool Muslims — should be deleted from the Indian lexicon in the context of quotas based on religion. Recently, vice-president Hamid Ansari, while delivering a lecture used the word “affirmative action” and perhaps meant that Muslims needed reservations. Muslims have never asked for reservations and it’s only their so-called leaders who keep wailing for quotas.
It’s time that Muslims were dissuaded from reservations and persuaded to find a firm footing in the mainstream through hard work. The Congress-led governments in the past had taken the Muslim community for a ride in the name of religion-based reservations, which is unconstitutional.
Reservations are no more than crutches for Muslims. The solution lies in competing and progressing through merit. The reality is that reservation degrades the universal concept of merit logically as well as ethically. Reservations on the basis of religion are uncalled for in a secular polity.
However, it should be clear that the Muslims are among the most disadvantaged and underprivileged sections of society. According to a survey by Friends for Education, an NGO, almost 52% Muslims live below the poverty line, as compared to 25% of all Indians. Of the 100 Muslims admitted at the primary level, only four finish high school, while only one makes it to college. In the recent civil services exams, there were only 11 Muslims among the 422 successful candidates. The situation continues to be same in other areas as well.
It would be worth examining as to what the founding fathers say about reservations. Interestingly, Sardar Patel vehemently supported the charter for providing political safeguards to the minorities as given in Articles 292 and 294 of the Draft Constitution, but Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hussainbhoy Laljee and Tajammul Hussain opposed it. The question is: If they are given jobs against a quota, will their woes end? How can the educational, economic and social conditions of 15% of a one billion population change with a few seats in a university or government jobs?
The basic reason for this is the lack of reform among Muslims, absence of modern education, the bigotry of ulema and their siege mentality. A sincere effort should be made to support the current social reform growing in the community, promote literacy and education campaigns, insist on gender equality and inheritance laws, enhance girl-child education and create opportunities for helpless Muslims that they empower themselves through education and new skills.
(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on education and religion. The views expressed are personal)