In the absence of reservation, affirmative action for muslims can be secured by including different sections of the community in the category of other backward classes (OBCs), according to a proposal mooted at a recent convention of muslim intellectuals.
"The Kalekar Commission (in 1953) had, in fact, recommended along these lines," said Dr Tanveen Fazal of Jamia Milia Islamia. According to him, since the three operational models of including muslims in the OBC category show that the community has benefited from the exercise, the Centre should replicate it on the national scale.
The first model is available in Kerala and Karnataka where the entire muslim community has been declared backward and included in the OBC list. In Tamil Nadu, the reservation is on the basis of caste/biradari. but covers about 95% of the local muslim population by listing them as backward. And in Bihar, the third model, the bifurcation of OBCs into backwards and most backward helped put 9 muslim groups in the first category and 27 in the second.
"The three provide different models that can be effectively utilized to address the issue of muslim reservation without inviting legal wrangles. It is important that maximum number of muslim groups that fufill the criteria are declared as OBCs. Wherever muslims have been able to achieve this, their relative share in public employment has increased," Fazal said. He was speaking on Saturday on the theme of ``Socio-economic deprivation of muslims: search for action and strategy" in the backdrop of the ongoing debate on the Sachar committee report on the status of muslims and the need to identify measures for their upliftment.
According to him, the muslim share in public employment in Tamil Nadu is 4%-4.5% in view of the fact that an overwhelming majority (93.3 %) of the 5.6% muslim population in the state is declared backward. In West Bengal, where the muslims are 25% of the population, only 2.4% have found a place in the OBC. A similar story is played out in Assam, the other state with a heavy concentration of muslims.
He called for replicating the Tamil Nadu and Bihar models on a national scale as it would serve two objectives. One, it would not invite litigation nor a backlash from other political parties which the Karnataka and Kerala models might since they, to some extent, invoke religion. Two, the bifurcation of backwards into OBCs and most backward classes (MBCs) would address the problems of inter-group and intra-group inequities.
According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (as reported in the Sachar report), muslim OBCs constitute 40.7% of the total muslim population. In states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, they constitute almost the entire muslim population. States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand have also included majority of muslims in the OBC list.