The government’s decision to table the Ranganath Misra Commission report in Parliament has largely been hailed, but Muslims leaders are sceptical about the implementation of its prickly proposals.
The UPA government set up the commission in 2005, during its first tenure, to assess the status of religious and linguistic minorities. The four-member panel submitted its report on May 21, 2007.
The Misra-led National Commission on Backward Religious and Linguistic Minorities has recommended 15 per cent reservation for minorities — 10 per cent for Muslims — in education and jobs.
In case it’s difficult to achieve, the panel proposes breaking up of the 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) to give minorities an 8.4 per cent share. Six per cent of it will be for Muslims.
Most pro-quota parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Janashakti Party and Janata Dal (United) have welcomed the move. The BJP is not in favour of it.
The Congress had proposed something similar in its poll manifesto. “Reservation to backward Muslims within 27 per cent OBC quota is under active consideration,” Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.
The panel also recommends Scheduled Caste (SC) status for Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians along with deprived sections, if any, among Jains and Parsis.
Only Hindu Sikhs and Buddhist Dalits have the SC status, under the Presidential Order 1950 (Para 3). “No member professing a religion different from Hinduism (Sikh and Buddh) shall be deemed to be a member of SC,” it says.
“The PM has conceded a long-standing demand to open the doors for a national consensus on reservation for Muslims,” former diplomat Syed Shahabuddin, who leads a coalition of Muslim outfits seeking reservation, said.
The proposals are a political hot potato. They’ll further strain country’s full-up quota system for disadvantaged groups, who will resist any move to reduce their share. Widening quota, on the other hand, could breach the Supreme Court’s 50 per cent cap on reservations.
“In the end, talk of reservation for Muslim will polarise votes and minorities will get nothing,” JD (U) MP Ejaz Ali, who has been spearheading the demand for SC status for Dalit Muslims, told HT.
To implement 15 per cent reservation, the government will have to pull off a Bill requiring approval of two-thirds of members in both the Houses.
Extending the SC status to Dalit Muslims and Christians will require a Bill to be cleared by simple majority, a relatively easy task.
Experts say fresh reservation may lead to rivalry between current and new beneficiaries. “The Mahars may look upon Muslims as rivals, leading to social conflicts,” said Renuka Dikshit of the Pune-based Institute for Study of Social Policies.