Thanks to the Congress party’s unrelenting pursuit of vote bank politics the issue of reservations for minorities in jobs and educational institutions is back in the news. Designed as a ploy to regain a foothold in UP (as a key to capturing power at the centre in 2014), it carved out a 4.5% sub-quota for minorities (primarily Muslims) in the 27% reservation provided for OBCs. In its vulgar greed to capture power at any cost it conveniently forgot the sequence of events, beginning with the creation of separate electorates based on religious lines in the 1930s, which eventually led to the partition of the country. The creation of separate electorates was precisely based on the same logic and for the same reasons that the government now seeks to create reservations for Muslims.
As soon as it came back to power in 2004 the Congress party began planning its long term strategy to woo permanent vote banks that would be beholden to it. In the first fifty years after independence it expropriated the freedom movement as a convenient anchor to lay claim for power. During this period also it tried its best to project itself as a champion for the welfare of minorities.
The Justice Rajender Singh Sachar Committee was constituted on March 9, 2005 to prepare a report on the social and educational status of Muslims (not minorities) in India. The other members of the committee were Mr. Sayyid Hamid, Dr. T.K. Ooman, Mr. M.A. Basith, Dr. Akhtar Majeed, Dr. Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr. Rakesh Basant. Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, a civil servant, was appointed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to assist the commission. The Committee submitted its report on November 17, 2006.
The Committee was asked to prepare a report on the relative, social, economic and educational status of Muslims at the district, regional and the state levels by obtaining relevant information and conduct[ing] a literature survey. Please note the last part in the first item of the terms of reference. The Committee was not expected to conduct any field research; it just had to conduct ‘literature survey’! This gives the committee led by J Rajinder Singh Sachar virtually the latitude to write anything it wants. (That the said J Rajinder Singh Sachar later turned out to be an honoured guest of Pakistani ISI-Front, Gulam Nabi Fai is another matter.)
PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”) which posted a summary of the report on its website has this to say of the report: “Barring some generic observations about the cause for the ‘development deficit’ among Muslims, there is no explicit or detailed discussion of the causes of such conditions.” (Click here to see the summary: Sachar Committee Report)
Sample some of the recommendations of the report, apart of course from recommending reservations for Muslims which was the latent reason for constituting the committee:
“… Work out mechanisms to link madarasas with higher secondary school board.
“Recognise degrees from madarasas for eligibility in defence, civil and banking examinations.”
On the other hand governments in various states have been merrily closing down Oriental Colleges, which were established during the British reign to impart Samskritic education in Vedas and allied sciences. The ostensible reason for closing these colleges, most of which were over a hundred years old is their dwindling enrollment.
But the most perilous course that the Committee recommended is in this recommendation:
“Establish a delimitation procedure that does not reserve constituencies with high minority population for SCs.”
If this course is followed the problems the nation is facing in Jammu & Kashmir are likely to surface in other states like Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. (See below for population ratios of these states.)
The following may be summed up as the report’s errors of commission and omission. The report did not take into account the bulk of educated employed Muslims that migrated to Pakistan when the country was partitioned. It did not take into account the numbers of Muslims engaged in trades and other professions. The Committee willy-nilly concedes that the “[…] most striking feature is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self-employment activity, primarily in urban areas and for women workers. […] Muslim participation rates in traditional manufacturing and trade (especially wearing apparel, auto-repair and electrical machinery) is much higher than for other groups, while their participation in the agricultural section is lower.” It excluded the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes from corresponding Hindu figures thus annulling any equity in its comparisons. Last but not least it excluded educated and well off Muslims from comparisons.
The Committee also had to concede that the literacy rate among Muslims @ 59.1% was slightly below the national average of 64.8%, “with the greatest gap in urban areas” for reasons already mentioned above, but that “the literacy rates were higher than those of SCs and STs.”
The Committee ignored the fact that the country did provide fair and equitable opportunities to all and those Muslims who availed of them did prosper - in filmdom, in industry, in government / university jobs or in politics. If you go by the findings of the report, Asghar Ali Enginner, A. G. Noorani, Azim Premji, Syed Shabuddin, the Khan trio and other Muslim celebrities of Bollywood and a host of other Muslims in high places (Sayyid Hamid, T.K. Ooman, M.A. Basith, Akhtar Majeed, Abu Saleh Shariff and Syed Zafar Mahmood included) - all need reservations in government jobs!
The National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) has concluded that the findings of the Sachar Committee were manipulated. The committee’s job was all the more easier as it was given the theories; it was only expected to go out and find facts to fit into them! Lo and presto, it did it and how? Try as you might, you cannot accuse the Committee of objectivity or doing anything right either by commission or omission. The Committee’s report, to borrow from information technology jargon, was doomed to be GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) right from inception. The Committee set out with faulty assumptions, faulty data collection and faulty analysis and of course ended up in arriving at faulty conclusions.
However the report made certain interesting findings with regard to the Muslim population in India. The states with the highest percentage of Muslims include Jammu & Kashmir (67%), Assam (30.9%), West Bengal (25.2%) and Kerala (24.7%). In 2001 the population of Muslims in India was 138 million which grew to 150 million by 2006. Between 1961 and 2001 their population grew from 10.7% to 13.4%. The committee estimates it is likely to grow to between 18% and 21% by 2101. These statistics are quite significant in that they raise a query about the definition of minority as applicable to Muslims.
The Constitution of India in Article 15 (1) ordains that “[t]he State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”; and in Article 16 (1) that “[t]here shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.”
By its latest executive fiat and in spite of court of after court questioning its motives the government at the centre seems to pursue a perilous course that might once again threaten the unity and integrity of the nation.