The much awaited report of the Rajinder Sachar Committee on the status of Muslims, with a host of recommendations aimed at highlighting the grey areas of development among the Muslim community and seeking ‘the best possible package of Governmental initiatives and measures’ for them was tabled in the Lok Sabha on November 30,2006. One of the salient aspects of the report is the suggestion put forward by the panel that to ameliorate the condition of “acute deprivation” of Muslims, the Government should take prompt measures to provide the backward among them considerable access, in the same way as the SCs, STs and OBCs, to the benefits of reservation in employment and educational institutions.

As the panel has categorically stated in its findings, the Muslim social groups such as the Arzals, whose traditional occupation is similar to that of Scheduled Castes (SCs), can be designated as Most Backward Community and provided reservation. Similarly, the Ashraf and Ajlaf groups should be treated at par with Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and covered under the OBC quota. To increase the political participation of the community, the panel has said that Muslims should be nominated to public bodies, including local bodies. The committee also sought a review of the delimitation of Assembly and Parliament seats, and suggested that those constituencies mat have a high percentage of Muslims should not be reserved for SCs.

According to the panel, the Muslims’ poor share of Government jobs, 4.9 percent is due to bias against them It recommended the creation of an Equal Opportunity Commission to look into complaints of discrimination. It also said that degrees given by madras as be recognized for jobs and that recruitment panels must have at least one Muslim member. The panel has also recommended that Muslims should be nominated to public bodies.

The Sachar Committee report has been brought out at a time when the Assembly elections are round the comer in many States where the Congress-led UPA coalition is locked into struggle for power with its political rivals like the BJP, SP, etc. Incidentally, these are the States where the Muslim ‘vote bank’ matters a lot in bringing a political party to power. Even on the nationwide scale, the Muslim community with a population of over 15 crore now has a major role to play in determining the fate of a political party. That is the reason why most of the political parties have been trying tooth and nail to win the support of Muslims by offering myriad privileges to them. The recommendations of the Sachar Committee mark a radical shift from the past trend as they don’t just lay stress on adding certain significant privileges to be given to Indian Muslims, a measure that has been dubbed by critics as measures of appeasement but they categorically favour reservations for them despite the grave and extremely counterproductive implications that they are likely to bear.

Tabling the report in the House, Minority Affairs Minister Mr. A JR. Antulay said, “The report is the best thing to have happened to the community/’ He said the Government would implement the panel’s recommendations from February 2007, which incidentally is the time when assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are likely to be held. Earlier, the committee set up by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in March 2005 under the former Chief Justice Mr. Rajinder Sachar, submitted to the Government its report on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in India in November 17, 2006.

What is most shocking about the report is the fact that the plight of Indian Muslims has been put forth as a rationale for reservation after about six decades of the country’s independence. Now, the question is not just why the utter poverty of Muslim community in India was never pinpointed with such assertion over so many years, but also why all concerns about ameliorating the condition of Muslims have eventually boiled down to giving them reservations on the same grounds as reservations have been given to SCs and OBCs. Keeping in view the fad that the issue of reservations has always been extremely contentious, starkly manifesting the shady imprint of opportunist politicians in power whose sole purpose is to fulfill their vested self-interests, ifs hard to recognize the Sachar Committee report as a fair and unbiased one free from political tampering.

There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that a vast majority of the Muslims in India are living under the dark shadow of untold misery, plight and poverty. On that count, the findings of the Sachar Committee report cannot be questioned as these have made an honest attempt to arrest a truism, which was never presented earlier in the garb of probably the most exhaustive research on any particular community undertaken at the behest of the Government. However, the major factors which cause any problem to persist and assume gigantic proportions cannot necessarily be understood through the looking glass of facts and figures. And in the context of the Sachar Committee report, it holds true to a great extent. Basically, the problem of poverty which a large chunk of the Muslim community is facing today can be attributed to their strait-jacketed mode of existence. Most of the backward Muslims have large families including a few or even a single bread winner and tens and twenties of dependents. Undoubtedly, a good many among our Muslim brethren have discarded the practice of polygamy and have sincerely adopted monogamy. They have also gone on to inculcate in themselves more progressive ideas. But there is still a vast majority of Indian Muslims who stick to the old guns under the influence of skewed ideas and their sectarian precursors. So, no great initiative has been taken by anyone to spread broad-based awareness among them regarding population control, which is usually seen by them as antireligious. It severely impedes the prospect of development restricting the scope of income generation and savings and pushing them to the back foot on the financial count. Besides, trapped as they are in the quagmire of orthodoxy due to the lack of a truly modernist outlook and scientific perception of life, they have no will to bring themselves at par with other communities. Generally, they hold their spiritual leaders to be next only to God without being able to understand their opportunistic intents and selfish motives. Thus, they have confined themselves to narrow pockets of faith without progress and resilience. What is required for their development is therefore not reservation in jobs but a proper education which can infuse a genuinely modernist spirit, mindset and ethos in them. Unfortunately, Sachar Committee has failed to notice this blatant urgency. To no one’s surprise, politicians in power, extending full support to the flawed recommendations of the panel, have taken no time to see in them a sumptuous opportunity to jump on the age-old bandwagon of’ minority appeasement’.

It may sound a bit harsh but many progressive minded people with insight into our history would agree today that, to a certain degree, the recommendations of this report are much the same as Ramsay Macdonald-formulated measure of Communal Award during the days of British colonialism. As we know, the basic objective of the Communal Award was not to give the Muslims equal representation in Legislative Councils but to divide the country along communal lines and perpetuate the British rule over India. Now the question is whether the Sachar Committee’s recommendations for Muslim reservation can be seen as anything except the post-colonial version of Macdonald’s Communal Award.

Another stark loophole of the Sachar Committee report is the fact that, while recommending for Muslim reservation, it has gone beyond the premises of the Constitution, which does not provide for reservations based on communities. So, it will require another amendment in the Constitution to make the proposal of Muslim reservation into legislation. Once that happens the overall reservation for SCs, STs, OBCs and Muslim community will certainly go beyond the existing 49.5% mark. Besides, if Muslims become entitled to enjoy the reservation cake, the possibility of other non-Hindu communities like Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists etc., too, pressing for it cannot be averted for long, so, the plight of merit and talent can well be imagined once the genie of community-based inst reservations is allowed to go in full swing. It will definitely rattle the confidence of the meritorious and truly deserving to a considerable extent to with various hubs of educational excellence across the country registering an unprecedented qualitative decline and deterioration.

Thus, the plight of merit may yield place to the ‘flight of merit or what is called ‘brain drain’. Moreover, job reservations in private sector may damage the country’s reputation as a booming global investment hub, thereby discouraging the entry of overseas corporate giants who might find it unpalatable to subscribe to the diktats of a pro-reservation regime at the expense of their own business interests. However, those who are dominating the corridors of political power are hardly concerned about anything except securing a hefty vote bank and maintaining their old over the ruling turf even if it amounts to sacrificing national interest and eroding the great ideal of unity and integrity of the country. As a blatant manifestation of it, the Government recently gave a clean chit to all the madras as, the centers of Muslim education, stating that they don’t serve as operational base for disruptive terrorist activities. It is contrary to what madras as have turned out to be by harbouring fissiparous, anti-national sentiments, miscreants and ammunitions smuggled into our country to spread terror networks across its length and breadth. Arguably, the measures taken by the power traders at the pretext of doing welfare to the Muslim community and bringing it into the mainstream of India bode ill for the country’s peace, unity and security.