A day after the government signed off on a major political demand of Muslims by earmarking a 4.5% sub-quota in jobs and university seats, prominent community organisations said: a welcome move, but hardly enough.
The move ahead of elections in UP, the political bellwether state where Muslims make up 18%, is being seen as a masterstroke by the ruling Congress.
“This is only the first step in a long journey,” said former diplomat Syed Shahabuddin, whose All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Musharwarat has spearheaded a long political battle for reservation for Muslims.
The Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, an organisation of clerics with a significant presence in UP, launched a scathing attack on the BJP for allegedly labelling the 4.5% share for all minorities as a “Muslim-only quota”."We appreciate the move but the Congress should stop being shy of changing certain laws in Parliament to give Muslims a greater share, which they deserve," Jamiat chief Arshad Madni said.
In all of this, Christians—60% of whom are disadvantaged dalits—said they have emerged the biggest losers. “There is a need for a sub-quota within the sub-quota on a pro-rata basis to benefit whatever few Christians that come under OBCs. Dalits constitute 60% of Christians. Unless they are accommodated by amending the Presidential order of 1950, it is a mockery of our rights” John Dayal secretary general of the All India Christian Council and National Integration Council member, said.
Echoing his views, former JD(U) MP Ejaz Ahmed, a campaigner for quota to dalit Muslims and Christians, said though the demand is to include dalit Muslims, the latest move will substantially benefit backward Muslims. That could be the key for the ruling Congress.
Reservation for India’s 150-mn Muslims is likely to have a polarising effect nonetheless, even though the November 2006 Sachar report found the minorities starkly under-represented.