sandhya lays it out clearly. the 104th amendment is the slippery slope towards the pakistanis' dream: mogulistan.
or is it the missionaries' dream: a seceding northeast?
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Debate reservation politics
Regardless of whether or not there is a consensus within the ruling UPA about reservations for Muslims on the basis of religion, Union Minister for Human Resources Development will certainly push through an ordinance on the issue, because few in the present regime will have the foresight or courage to resist its dangerous implications. Assuming therefore, that the ordinance is a virtual fait accompli, it may be fruitful to debate the possible grounds upon which reservations should be granted.
The issue has become more pressing since the Government recently pushed through a bill in the winter session of Parliament, extending SC, ST and OBC reservations to all educational institutions, including private schools, but excluding the minority institutions. Given the fact that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi belongs to a religion in which both education and conversion are highly profitable industries, this raises questions why minority institutions were singled out for the exemption.
As if this were not bad enough, the Government showed poor grace when a division bench of the Allahabad High Court upheld the judgment that the Aligarh Muslim University is not a minority institution as it was created by an Act of Parliament, and hence it could not reserve fifty percent of its seats for Muslim students. The Congress is similarly determined to subvert the Andhra High Court decision striking down five percent reservations for Muslims in state employment.
Now, a special ordinance, followed by a special legislation, is being mooted to give reservation benefits to Muslims in educational institutions. We do not yet know what shape this will take, but as it is on the anvil, it may be appropriate to initiate a larger debate on the objectives and ethics of reservations, especially as the reservation cake is getting progressively larger with every passing year.
It is certain that the UPA is determined to press ahead with reservations on the basis of religion to secure an assured votebank. Since Congress had mooted reservations in both education and jobs, it is only a matter of time before it extends them to Parliament and the State Legislatures. Anyone with half a sense of history can see that we could be fast moving down the road to another major secession, as in 1947, especially in the wake of systematically altered religious demography in sensitive border regions contiguous to the breakaway portions in the east and the west.
It needs to be emphasized that since reservations are being offered only on the basis of religion, it is obvious that the objective is to ensure the Muslims do not integrate into the national mainstream, but retain a sharp sense of difference with all other groups, especially the Hindu majority. Further, since the Muslim community is overwhelmingly based on conversions under the rule of various Islamic rulers over several centuries, and later allurements of petro-dollars, responsibility for the poor educational achievements of Muslims in independent India, and hence their low representation in public services, cannot be laid at the door of India's majority population. Rather, Muslim converts should be made to face the fact that conversion gave them few benefits even under Muslim rule, and denied them community with the larger nation after independence.
This argument applies equally to Christian converts, who are trying to organize themselves to secure reservations at the cost of poor Hindus, rather than challenge the rich church institutions for justice and compensation.
My point is that if political power and wealth by Muslim and Christian rulers respectively could not help the Muslim and Christian populations of this country to develop into an economic or educational elite (as happened with the Parsis, and other Hindu groups, by dint of their own merit), there is no legitimate reason to believe that mere institutional reservations will now produce these results. Instead, standards will be lowered and the cutting edge of excellence created for this country by the sheer hard work of middle class India all over the globe, will be lost. In its place we will have a Muslim community with a heightened sense of communal consciousness, which will harbour resentment against the larger society for its own inability to promote excellence.
It bears stating that world class Muslim intellectuals, such as late Prof. Mahbub ul Haq, the famous Pakistani economist, and India's IT millionaire Azim Premji, could not have risen out of a reservation regime. Reservations are therefore a retrograde measure; all that Muslims (as indeed all citizens without discrimination) really need are schools that truly function, within a decent walking distance. Literacy creates its own empowerment; there are enough professional and vocational educational institutions and commensurate employment opportunities in the country today, and the job sector is only getting wider.
At the same time, if the Congress is determined to grant reservations to minorities on grounds of religion, a beginning must be made by undoing all reservations granted to Muslims so far on the basis of caste. They cannot have it both ways. Moreover, the denial of reservation benefits to Hindus on religious grounds must be perceived as a matter of political discrimination on grounds of religion, and challenged constitutionally. If Congress is going to unilaterally override the constitutional consensus against reservations on religious lines, Hindus must make sure that they are not left behind in the race. We must not accept Congress decisions breaking up the Hindu community into castes from which Congress hopes to derive political advantage. We must claim 85 percent reservations in education and employment; this can be divided to cater to both merit and poverty.
Hindus must not be left behind in the current religious competition. Rather than sit and hope that this menace will go away on its own, we must take the bull by the horns and ensure that the nation's principle religion gets its legitimate dues. Simultaneously we must demand – by recourse to the courts if necessary – a public audit of all minority institutions that have received funds from abroad, to gauge the extent to which they have indulged in conversion activities in this country, and expose the manner in which the converts have been left to fend for themselves after conversion. No reservations must be permitted without this auditing of the conversion industry, the minority education industry, and the historical relationship between conversion and secession. If Congress is hell-bent upon reservation politics, Hindus must show that two can play the game.