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Should Muslims get reservation in government jobs?
The Congress has promised a specified 4.5% sub-quota for Muslims within the existing 27% quota for the OBC community, if it returns back to the power. If I remember correctly, the Congress promised the same during 2009 general elections campaign.

To be honest it tried implementing that too but the apex court rejected government's appeal saying there is no reservation envisioned specifically for Muslims in the Union government jobs as per the Indian Constitution.

The Congress's proposal has renewed debate about affirmative actions to be provided to minorities in general and Muslims in particular. The SP has proposed amending constitution to raise the constitutional ceiling of below 50% job and other quota for various identities and provide affirmative actions to Muslims outside the OBC quota.

Now the issue of job reservation in Union government is debatable. The obvious argument against the quota for Muslims is that they were rulers and victors since Islam arrived in this part of the subcontinent in 1017 Common Era (CE) with the entry of Gur of Mohammad. Muslims ruled for almost three quarter of a millennium and after that British, almost neutral people, ruled India till beyond the mid of 1947. Muslims' real discrimination started post-independence and that time is not so big so as to grant them with almost permanent reservation. Moreover, the opponents of reservations to Muslims argue that Muslims rarely have castes and if they have ones at least they do not accept that.

Usual Muslims argument is that they are tax-payers and therefore, it is within their right to demand and get their legitimate dues. Many Muslims talk about the proportionate reservations, not exceeding the present population fraction. But in reality a majority of Muslims will accept reservation equal to half of what their fraction of present population is.

I take a view somewhere in-between. The fact is that many Muslims are backward people and they do require government support to improve their life. Financial assistance in the form of easier loans and some affirmative actions in the colleges and universities should be the minimum support Muslims should expect from the Union government. Various state governments can provide their own reservations though most of them would have to take clue from the apex court.

As far as me personally is concerned I think that Muslims should definitely get some support from the Union government - other than the usual and normal - to help improve their conditions and help them get over from the negative deposits of time. Therefore, some kind of reservation to the otherwise backwards among Muslims can be provided though it should not affect the performance and efficiency of Indian state significantly and substantially neither should it hurt the talent of individuals.

Despite of all affirmative actions, the Indian system has to be rewarding to talented people from any identity. While socialism may be mandatory from present perspectives yet capitalism has to survive in patches in many parts of India. India cannot and should not have parallel theory or opposition to the more fashionable and accepted one.

Now it is very tricky and politically risky to cut down the size of OBC reservation and provide a sub-quota to Muslims in Union government jobs. Majority of regional parties would shy away from that and there is no question of the BJP agreeing to provide job reservations to Muslims. And all Muslims should appreciate the concerns of those parties which claim to champion the cause of Muslims. No party and its leaders can make their core constituency unpleased as populism rests mostly on a majority opinion.

A party exclusive of Muslims and for Muslims is of little use to them and in fact may harm them. At the same time all proponents of Muslim quota, Muslims and Hindus alike, should understand that a sub-quota provided by a favorable government may not stand the stress test in the apex court. As the incumbent in the 7 Race Course has found that government decree or ordinance is no route for providing such reservations as the apex court can term it unconstitutional.

So there is only one valid route and that is that that it requires a constitutional proceeding; a big step - amendment, in order to make it legal. That is indeed a very difficult task. Now if all parties excluding those belonging to the NDA agree for the amendment, which, ideally speaking, they would not, even then the amendment will not be passed in the floor of the Parliament. This is true about both Houses of the Parliament. The reason is that NDA will easily get more than one-third of the seats this time in the Lower House of the Parliament.

Now theoretically speaking there are two possibilities in amending the Constitution: one is to amend the affirmative action clause by dubbing many Muslims as backwards and the other one is to amend the Constitution wholeheartedly by providing specific clause of affirmative actions for Muslims and possibly for other minorities. But the Supreme Court can declare the possible second big amendment unconstitutional and against the spirit of secular Indian state.

Obviously, the first one is a lot easier and lower-ordered amendment. But then it is not at all politically savvy. The second one is higher-ordered Herculean task and politically very risky. Now any of the probable amendments, if tried, would give further boost to already buoyed BJP-led NDA. The NDA will oppose it tooth and nail even if it somehow sits on the opposition benches. Its poll prospects will then improve and it may get an absolute majority in the next general elections.

But in reality the NDA sitting in opposition is lowest possible among the governing coalition possibilities. So what would happen to Muslims? They as such do not vote for the BJP and this is true for some good reasons from their perspectives. Now can they expect from a party that big concession against which they tactically vote? The answer is a simple no. Anyway, for obvious reasons, the BJP-led NDA cannot offer those favors to Muslims which few other parties, including the Congress, are offering.

Let me repeat: even if the NDA does not come back to power, still the possibility of Muslims getting separate job-quota or a sub-quota within OBC quota is very low as it would face legal hurdle and lack of political will. With the BJP at the helm of affairs, it is practically no way possible. But still a lot can be done to improve the situation of Muslims in India. In order to make it happen it requires cooperation and good efforts from all sides.

The fact is that the Congress has lost all hope to form the next government in New Delhi. While announcement of sub-quota for Muslims would fetch the Congress some votes, the fact is that it may loose vital support of backward community. Moreover, the party's intention to grant scheduled caste status to all outcaste minorities may make Hindu and Buddhists outcastes angry and annoyed and the move can backfire politically.

To be honest the move could help the Congress?s tally up but by a very small number of seats. The announcement would be considered an unwelcome step by many upper caste Hindus. But the fact is that by suggesting or promising job quotas for Muslims, the Congress's has done some good work from Muslim perspectives and has added a shot to its liberal centrist agenda. Muslims should appreciate it and consider this in good faith whether the promise materializes or not.

Frankly speaking, Muslims are 15% of Indian population and in absolute numbers they are some good 180 million people. Obviously, their aspirations and views cannot be fully ignored by any governing coalition, including by the NDA. The biases and prejudices against Muslims should go and Hindus should consider Indians Muslims as their equals in all aspects. That's the minimum all sincere Muslims should expect from rest of their countrymen. On their part, maximum numbers of Muslims should forgo isolation and they should have no grudge left against the Indian state.



Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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