The Rajinder Sachar panel's findings on the status of Muslims have revived the debate on quotas for the community, though the committee has made no such recommendation.
Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Bukhari used the report to hit out at the Congress, alleging the party would use it as a "political bandwagon" to appease Muslims before the elections in Uttar Pradesh. "The report indicts the Congress for our present status," he said while demanding that the entire community be categorised as 'backward' and be given the benefits of quota. "If Hindu Dalits can get reservation, why not Muslim Dalits," he asked.
Others made similar demands. MMM Madani, general secretary of the Jamiata-ul-a-Hind, sought a constitutional amendment to pave the way for Muslim quotas.
Deepak Sharma, spokesman for the Diwan Darga Ajmeri Sharief, said reservation was the only way to end discrimination against Muslims.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board spokesman Abdul Rahim Qureshi said the Sachar report should be the basis for declaring the entire Muslim community as 'backward' under Article 16(4) of the Constitution.
But apolitical Muslims like former cabinet secretary Zaffarullah Khan said reservation was no magic potion. He said such moves would be ineffective unless the government had an accountable mechanism in place at the grassroots. He also stressed on the need to end discrimination against Muslims.
Sharma said the Sachar panel recommendations on setting aside at least 15 per cent government schemes for Muslims could help check this discrimination. Khan wanted the government to immediately implement the panel's recommendation of having at least one Muslim in each of its recruitment committees.
Muslim leaders agreed with the Sachar panel on the fact that Muslims needed better access to education but differed on the mode. "We will not allow modernisation of madrasas till the government ends its bias against Muslim schools," Madani, whose organisation runs 3,000 madrasas, said. The Deoband is also opposed to government interference in madrasas.
But Qureshi and Khan favoured "relevant" education in madarsas and said they wanted the government to open more schools in Muslim-dominated areas.
"Islamic and modern education should be amalgamated," Bukhari too said. Qureshi quoted from the Sachar report to point out that only four per cent Muslim children study in madrasas.