Skull Caps

On Mauzis, Madrasas and Mindsets

The Urdu Media Response to the Sachar Committee Report

Posted by arshadamanullah on February 17, 2007

The Sachar Committee Report has already been tabled in the Parliament. The mediascape is witness to intensive debate whether the fate of the Report will be different from its predecessors. What are missing from these discussions are the opinions being expressed in the predominantly Muslim Urdu media and the reactions of the Muslim organizations in this regard.

The thesis of the Sachar Committee report– Muslims are more backward than the Dalit in some walks of life—is not startling enough to compel the Urdu media to express knee-jerk reactions. Volumes have been written in it on the variety of discriminations prevalent against the community in different domains of the national life. Hence, presently what dominates the debate in it is: Will the Manmohan Government to show the political will to implement the recommendations of the Committee, and if yes, will it go for the reservation for the Muslims and then of course, the Constitutional viability of the same.

The daily Rashtriya Sahara, New Delhi (RS) on the 18th of November informed through its first lead main front-page story that Justice Sachar has submitted its report to the Prime Minister. In its detailed report it quoted Justice Sachar on the issue of reservation to Muslim that now the ball was in the court of the government. Qaumi Awaz, New Delhi (QA) , another leading Urdu daily from the capital city, did not accord the news that importance, providing it little space in one corners of the lower half of the front-page.

RS carried a news-item based on the opinions of the Muslim dignitaries regarding the report ((21/11/2006). Maulana Muhammad Saalim Qasmi, President of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat(AIMMM) said that though the report did not tell the whole truth about the Muslim situation in India as it was based on the figures provided by the state governments, it would serve as an eye-opener to the plights of the minority community. He demanded the central government to take effective measures to pull the Muslims out of the morass of backwardness and to ensure that benefits of different government welfare schemes reaching to the community. He insisted that reservation in the job opportunities and the educational centers for the community should be the first of the affirmative actions initiated by the government in this regard. Going a step ahead of Maualana Qasmi, Dr. Furqan Ghauri of Samajwadi Party did not only advocate for the reservation for the Muslims in education and employment sectors, he said that the Central government should not hesitate in amending the Constitution for this cause.

While demanding reservations for the Muslim community, like many others, Qasmi and Ghauri forgot the fact that the Indian muslims are a highly stratified community. That is why the demand for reservations for all Muslims, including Ashraf muslims, the creamy layer of the community, does not stand the criteria prescribed in the Constitution for the eligibility of the reservation.

Unlike Furqan and Qasmi, Ali Anwar, the President of All India Backward Muslim Morcha, though, has earned the reputation of being an ardent supporter of the reservation for Muslims; he is completely opposed to the blanket reservation on the basis of religion., As he has painstakingly shown in his seminal work Masawat Ki Jung (Crusades for Equality), that it will trigger the process of communal polarization, resulting in further social exclusion of the backward Muslims. He demanded that the government should identify Dalit Muslims who constituted 80 percent of the Indian Muslims and extend to them the status of SCs. There are other constitutional provisions for the upliftment of those among the ashraf Muslims who are not doing well.

Agreed with Ali Anwar, Hasan Kamal, a columnist with (RS, 25/11/2006) while expressing his fear that if reservation was provided to the whole Muslim community, the ashraf would walk away with all the benefits and the ajlaf would remain deprived. This fear on the part of Kamal is well grounded as there is no difference in the social structure of both the communities. With the identification of backward Muslims and the removal of hurdles in the process of getting caste certificates, he further argued, a lot of problems would be easily solved. Likewise, if the ordinance of 1953 which excludes all non-Hindus from the list of the beneficiaries of being a Dalit, is amended to include non-Hindu Dalits, it will go a long way in their crusades against the social and economic backwardness.

During the course, QA published an exceptionally elongated letter by Syed Hamid, one of the 8 members of the Sachar Committee. Reacting to this Muslim reservation debate in the Urdu media, he wrote that the Committee had deliberately not included the reservation clause in its recommendation. It feared that the Rightist forces would try to politicize the issue which might prove detrimental to the other useful recommendations of the Committee.

Shahid Siddiqui, the editor-in-chief of Nai Duniya, the weekly tabloid, though does not buy the doctrine of selective reservation, he holds the Congress Party responsible for glaring backwardness of the Muslim community in all walks of life (November 20-26,2006). According to the daily Hindustan Express, Delhi,a new promising venture in the Urdu journalism, Qari Muhammad Miyan Mazhari, the former chairperson of the National Minority Corporation said that the report had exposed how well-wisher the Congress had been to the Muslims who loyally and continually kept on voting it to the power for more than forty years. (26/11/2006). It should go without going that it is not only on the shoulder of the Congress lays the responsibility for the present dilemma of the community. The Sachar report did also expose the failure of the Muslim leadership and now it was high time to introspect, as put one of the readers of RS in his letter to the editor. (25/11/2006).

Apart from this debate around the issue of reservation and the blame-game, a sense of skepticism, rather of despair, prevails in a section of the community. This skepticism originates from what happened to the recommendations of the earlier committees like the Gopal Singh Committee, Vardharajan Committee etc. Articulating concerns of this eeyorish section of the Muslims, Nadeem Dehlavi, President of Delhi Pradesh Momin Conference said: “After the Independence it has become a regular practice to constitute commissions to study the plights of the Indian Muslims. They have suggested in their recommendations solutions for the predicaments of the community but none of them were ever put into practice. That is why it is futile to expect anything substantial out of the recommendations of the Sachar report.”

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