Notwithstanding opposition from a section of the Muslim community, Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday decided to go ahead with “caste-based” reservations for Muslims in the state.
The government will shortly promulgate an ordinance to provide four percent reservations to 15 Muslim groups considered “socially and educationally backward”, while excluding the creamy layer among the community from the purview of the reservation in jobs and professional colleges.
Minister for Information and Public Relations Anam Ramnarayan Reddy said that the government had earlier provided five percent reservations to the entire Muslim community but the AP High Court had struck down the quota twice.
One of the main reasons for quashing the quota was that the overall reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes was exceeding the ceiling of 50 per cent prescribed by the Supreme Court.
By reducing the quota to 4 per cent, the government will meet the over all ceiling limit of 50 per cent.
It’s the third time that the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh government is attempting reservations for Muslims. In July 2004, the government had issued a Government Order earmarking five per cent quota for Muslims by including them in the list of Backward Classes. But the order was quashed by the AP High Court.
Again, in June 2005, the State government promulgated an Ordinance providing five per cent quota for Muslims. The Ordinance was replaced by an Act subsequently. However, the AP High Court struck down the quota again. The State government filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the High Court’s judgement which is still pending.
Meanwhile, the state government asked the AP Commission for Backward Classes to study the issue again. The commission after due diligence submitted its report to the government recently.
Based on the recommendations, the government decided to create a fifth group titled “Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims” under the category “E” in the Backward Classes list. The government identified 15 specific classes of Muslims for inclusion under this group “E’ of BCs in addition to “A, B, C & D’ categories already existing for reservation for admission into educational institutions and in appointment to posts in the services in the State under Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution of India.
The specific groups include Achchukattalavandlu, Attar Saibulu, Dhobi, Fakir, Garadi, Gosangi, Guddi Eluguvallu, Hajjam, Labbi, Pakeerla Borewale, Qureshi, Shaik, Siddi, Chakketakera and other Muslim groups excluding Syed, Mushaik, Mughal, Pathan, Irani, Arab, Bohra, Shia Imami Ismaili Khoja, Cutchi-Memon, Jamayat and Navayat “and all the synonyms and sub-groups of the excluded groups.”
Minister for Minorities Welfare Mohammed Ali Shabbir asserted that the reservation policy would cover 90 per cent of the states 70 lakh Muslim population. “It will cover all except Syeds, Mughals, Pathans and other sections which are equivalent to upper castes among the Hindus,” he added.
However, some sections of Muslims have opposed the “ caste-based quota” for the community. United Muslim Action Committee, an umbrella organisation has opposed the move arguing that all were equal among Muslims and there was no caste system in Islam. “Such division on caste basis was unacceptable under Shariat (Muslim Personal Law),” it said.
Already, six Islamic seminaries had issued “fatwa” against division of Muslims into various caste-based groups. “Muslims all over the world are equal. There is no distinction of caste, colour or race among them. Therefore, creating distinction among them for reservations is improper under Shariat,” Jamia Nizamia, the Hyderabad-based Islamic seminary stated in its fatwa.
Majlis-e-Ittehaadul Muslimneen, a local political Party and a Congress ally had also termed the ‘caste-based’ quota as “unwarranted attempt to create divisions among Muslims” and demanded that the government follow Karnataka model,where reservations are provided to Muslims without dividing them into ‘artificial’ groups.