The Rajender Sachar panel findings on the status of Muslims has not surprised Muslim leaders but has provided them political ammunition to fire before assembly elections in five states and revive the debate on reservations for Muslims, even though the panel has not recommended any such move.
Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Bukhari termed the report as a political bandwagon for the Congress to appease Muslims before the elections in UP. "The report indicts Congress for our present status," he said and demanded reservation by defining the entire community as "backward".
Others also did not fall short of making similar demands. MMM Madani, general secretary of Jamiata-ul-a-Hind, sought an amendment in the Constitution to remove hurdles in the reservation for Muslims.
Deepak Sharma, spokesperson of Diwan Darga Ajmeri Sharief, said reservation in the only way to end discrimination against Muslims. Abdul Rahim Qureshi, spokesperson of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said the Sachar committee report should be taken as a basis for declaring the entire Muslim community as backward under Article 16 (4) of the Constitution. When Hindu Dalits get reservation why not Muslim Dalits?, Bukhari wanted to know.
But apolitical Muslims like Zaffarullah Khan, former Cabinet Secretary, said reservation provides a limited solution. Such moves will be ineffective till the government places an accountable mechanism at the grass root level to ensure the betterment of Muslims on social indicators, he said, while stressing on the need to end discrimination against Muslims at the middle and lower levels.
Sachar panel recommendations on at least 15 per cent government schemes for Muslims can check this discrimination, Sharma said. Khan wanted the government to immediately implement the panel recommendation to have at least one Muslim in each of its recruitment committee.
Muslims leaders agree with Sachar panel that Muslims need better access to education but differ on the mode. "We will not allow the modernisation of madarsas till the government ends discrimination in opening Muslim schools," Madani, whose organisation runs 3,000 madarsas, said. Deoband is also opposed to government interference in madarsas.
Qureshi and Khan favours relevant education in madarsas and wants the government to open more schools in the Muslim dominated areas. "Islamic and modern education should be amalgamated," Bukhari also added. Qureshi pointed that only 4 per cent Muslim children study in madarsas (as Sachar panel states) and it indicates lack of basic education facilities for Muslims.