Minority-bashing: There we go again
A significant mass of this nation, after 60-odd years of nationhood, still lacks a heart. It cannot bear the sight of even crumbs being given to minorities.
Gandhi, if we remember, said that a state should be judged by the way it treats its minorities. Let’s consider the things that the right-wing, including the main opposition BJP, have said about this past week’s decision to earmark minorities a 4.5% share in jobs and university seats within an existing 27% “reservation” system for Other Backward Classes (comprising 1,900-odd socially disadvantaged groups).
But before that, let’s understand what this new political largesse is all about. First things first, this is no big fat pie that’s going to rob all jobs and seats. It does not breach the existing level of government jobs and university seats — 50% — set aside for weaker sections.
The 4.5% quota does not create any new groups but those already surveyed and approved for affirmative action. Including new beneficiaries or excluding existing ones require approval of not only certain statutory bodies but also of the Parliament.
It merely creates a sub-category for minorities. So, while earlier “backward” groups among minorities, including Muslims, had to compete within the 27% OBC quota, they will now have to make it within the 4.5% share assigned to them. Whether this is a boon or bane, in terms of opportunity, is still being debated.
Most importantly, this is not a Muslim-only offer, but for all minorities in this country.
Now, let’s listen in to some of the canards being spread. Reservation on the basis of religion is unconstitutional. Truth is nobody is being given reservation benefits on the basis of religion. It’s being given on the basis of a community’s backwardness or disadvantaged status. And there is, in the Constitution, a clear promise for reservation benefits on the basis of “backwardness”.
A number of Muslim communities are already listed among the “backward classes”. Their backwardness is constitutionally settled, up till the Supreme Court. It is they who benefit.
But the right-wing is going to town. The Uttar Pradesh unit of BJP said it was holding demonstrations on December 27. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) showed up in great numbers to protest against the reservation decision for “Muslims” in Indore. The Bajrang Dal, another right-wing outfit, announced launching a countrywide agitation too.
In their rush to pan the reservation, some BJP leaders are uttering mumbo-jumbo. Former UP chief minister and BJP president Rajnath Singh said: “I oppose reservation on religious grounds. It’s unconstitutional. But we believe in social justice.” Singh said during his tenure (as UP chief minister) his government gave reservation benefits to not only the backwards, but even the most backwards and extremely backward communities. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/minority-reservation-in-job-quota/1/165695.html
Rajnath Singh cannot claim to believe in social justice and oppose reservation to constitutionally validated backward minorities and yet be offering them reservation (as he claims) all at the same. Sorry, he has to come up again, re-collecting his thoughts and framing it better.
BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the 4.5% quota is the Congress party’s “dangerous political game”, which can lead to a “civil war among the different communities and castes”.
There’s hardly any doubt that, apart from having a social objective, the 4.5% sub-quota is also a political strategy. Only that it may not be a very bright political strategy to give far less that what has actually been recommended by a national commission. The government has already laid itself bare to the charge of tokenism.
But did we hear the BJP say it foresees a “civil war”? Or is it trying to incite one? Two days after the new sub-quota has been implemented through an executive order to be applicable from January 1, 2012, we are yet to see even a brawl.
In any case, the only way to sustain an efficient affirmative action system in this country is by gradually weaning off the fat cats and including more deserving ones from all communities. If the historically well-off Brahmins were to fall upon bad times, even they should be considered.
But the larger point is that this nation ought to have faith in the notion of social justice. Elections alone do not a democracy make.