The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government is in a fix over the promise of 12% reservation for Muslims it made in its election manifesto.
Not convinced by the setting up of a panel to study socio-economic conditions of the community, Muslim groups are demanding a Backward Class Commission to look into the issue.
Muslims, who constitute 12.68% of Telangana’s 3.52 crore population, currently enjoy 4% quota in education and jobs. The 12% quota will take the overall reservation to 58%, requiring a constitutional amendment.
At an election meeting in Warangal, where byelections were held on Saturday, some Muslim women showed placards to Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao reminding him about the promise.
The state government had set up a committee in March to study the plight of Muslims and recommend the hike accordingly. Last month, the term of the committee was extended by another six months.
The opposition parties and Muslims groups have termed it as a delaying tactic. “It’s the BC Commission alone that can recommend reservation. The committee was constituted despite the fact that such a move by a previous government was struck down by the courts,” says Amir Ali Khan, news editor of Urdu daily ‘Siasat’, which is running a state-wide campaign to increasing quota for Muslims.
However, the chief minister has assured the community that the government will follow the Tamil Nadu model, where total reservation is 69% as the relevant state Act was included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
“The TRS promise is unrealistic because Acts even under the Ninth Schedule are open to judicial review as ruled by the Supreme Court,” says senior Congress leader Mohammed Ali Shabbir.
The 12% quota also faces stiff opposition from the BJP. “We will never accept reservation on the basis of religion,” says state BJP president G Kishan Reddy.
In 2004, the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government in united Andhra Pradesh gave 5% quota to Muslims by creating a new category among BCs (backward classes). Shabbir, who was then a minister in YSR’s cabinet, recalled that after a three-year long legal battle, the government brought it down to 4% so that the overall quota didn’t exceed 50%.
The government also limited the benefits to economically backward Muslims coming under 14 categories.
“The sword is still hanging on even this 4% as the Supreme Court passed only interim orders for its continuation,” says Amir Ali Khan, who is leading the campaign.
However, the quota and fee reimbursement schemes introduced by YSR benefited thousands of young Muslims. The data of 2012-13, for instance, shows 252 students got seats in medicine. More than 11,000 students got admissions in engineering, MBA, MCA, B.Ed and other courses.
Shabbir feels the government should prove its sincerity by setting up a BC Commission. “12% reservation means quota for the entire community, which is not realistic. If the BC Commission recommends hike of even 2% quota, Muslims will be happy,” he adds.