The Centre could soon begin the spadework to take reservation benefits to more backward Muslims, with the Minority Affairs Ministry flagging off the issue for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
At present, there are 21 Muslim groups like Ansari and Ganchi in the Central List of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) that has 100 communities in all, who get 27 per cent reservation in education and jobs.
According to the Sachar Committee, which probed disadvantages faced by the community, Muslim OBCs constitute 40.7% of total Muslims, and comprise 15.7% of the total OBC population. However, their share in the OBC quota is just 8.3%, according to an estimate.
The report also found that Muslims hold less than 5% of government jobs and make up only 4% of undergraduates.
Minister for minorities Salman Khurshid met the PM on Thursday, seeking a “policy direction” on the issue. Khurshid, a source said, also sought permission to add “reservation for more backward Muslims” next on his ministry’s agenda.
Asked about the move, Khurshid said: “We flagged this issue for the Prime Minister for a direction. He has assured all support for affirmative action. There is, in the Constitution, a clear promise of reservation on the basis of backwardness.”
The minister said a reference could be made to the Backward Classes Commission to revaluate its norms nationally to include more Muslims groups.
The Congress manifesto had promised to nationally apply the initiative of some party-led states to extend affirmative action to the majority of Muslims. “The Congress pioneered reservations for minorities in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh…We are committed to adopt this policy at the national level,” the manifesto states.
Many Muslim groups, however, have been dogmatically demanding inclusion of Dalit Muslims under the SC category, which will give them political reservation, like reserved assembly seats, a tricky issue.
“The government has to consider this demand. A Dalit Muslim is not entitled to reservation but a Dalit Hindu is,” said Ali Anwar Ansari, JD(U) MP and head of All-India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj or Backward Muslim Congregation.
The Ranganath Mishra Commission, set up by the previous UPA government, had recommended 10% reservation for Muslims but the government has not tabled the report yet. Its terms of reference were to identify Dalits among non-Hindus.
The Commission had recommended amendment to the Presidential Order of 1950, which defines Article 341 and limits Dalit status to Hindus, Sikhs and neo-Buddhists.