Abir Dasgupta & Chittibabu Padavala
As we know, India is among the only major democracies without any special protection in resource distribution of any kind for its minorities for a long time before it set out on the course of their genocidal persecution.
The timid previous demand for Reservations for Muslims has gotten a boost with the Reservation Policy for Marathas in education and jobs in Maharashtra.
However, two important things are of paramount importance here. It was only after the Sachar committee report that the demand for reservations for Muslims became a mainstream demand. Muslims in India deserve reservations by virtue of being minorities in the first place. While their shocking under-representation in government jobs etc. and the desperate condition of most of the Muslims shown in the Sachar report strengthens the case for Muslim Reservations, it cannot be the main justification. Being a religious minority is in itself a sufficient condition for a right to quotas.
Muslims are a murderously persecuted religious minority with the persecutors themselves running the government. In that context, seen tactically, demanding for the rights and protections that they have not been yet entitled to has the additional advantage of going against the seemingly inexorable deprivation of what they are at least supposed to have so far, including safety and guarantee of the right to life. Thus demanding for reservations for Muslims must be on top of the agenda of all political progressive forces.
Dalits who fought for the reservations for OBCs for decades on end until it was achieved can play a similar role of enabling allies in the demand for Reservations for Muslims.
Some are opposing this demand in the name of caste among Muslims. This is one of the unfortunate results of Hindu Rashtrafiacation of politics of social justice. The same instinct that prevented Hindu leaders from conceding the basic democratic demand of a secular country – protection of religious minorities – that led to the partition, the only just reaction in the face of caste Hindu intransigence, that same instinct is now opposing the reservations for Muslims. In the language of the “godi media” it is Muslim appeasement, in the online language it is “Ashraf reservations.” Ajay Singh Bisht has further promised an attack on Asaduddin Owaisi if the BJP wins in Telangana.
The first point to note is that in the Nazist period, in the days of murderous persecution by mobs to the police to even courts, the caste and class differences among the Muslims have absolutely no bearing on their safety (think of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri and his family or the former Vice-Presdent Hamid Ansari or even some Ashrafs who have faced mob lynching in the recent wave). In the systematic persecution by the state and the paramilitaries and recently, the mobs murdering on their own with assured Nazist support, which caste a Muslim is has no practical importance at all. The old myth of riots harming only poor (Muslim) people, if it ever was valid, now is absolutely criminal bullshit. All Muslims are now living under perpetual danger of being killed with impunity, even cameras and courts are not protecting them. The other point to note is that caste deprivations among lower caste Muslims can only be a justification for extra protection above what is given to them as religious minorities, which even the privileged among Muslim minorities deserve in a decent democracy. Finally, reservations for any community is not a reward for good behavior, or an award for castelessness. It is a right of any minority and a right of any community that does not get fair proportional representation. Muslims are both.
In this demand, Owaisi deserves the support of all democrats and votaries of social justice, as Prakash Ambedkar does.
Abir Dasgupta is an independent journalist based in Mumbai
Chittibabu Padavala is a research scholar at IIT Bombay