How Logical Is Women Reservation in India!
*M. Burhanuddin Qasmi
It is an unfortunate fact that in a democracy nothing is achievable without united agitations. This time again the Muslim social and political leadership in India is failing to unite strongly against a very genuine demand and clear hypocrisy against them in guise of women empowerment.
Electronic media too seems part of the mockery being on play by the UPA chief Sonia Gandhi to over throw her parties weaknesses in the parliament. One wonders, why the 24 hours by seven media houses not genuinely debating on the theme argued by SP, RJD, BSP, TCM, AIUDF, MIM in the parliament?
If religion based reservation is unacceptable for the majority when it comes to political empowerment of minorities which is overdue for last 63 years, then how a gender based case become rational? Reservation be offered to the weaker sections of the society to genuinely empower them and Muslims are the weakest community by all arguments and statistics. Thus logically reservation bill for Muslim empowerment must come first.
If reservation can not go over 50 per cent of total as in the case of 5 per cent Muslim reservation in Andra Pradesh then how 33 per cent more can be ensured in India where already seats are reserved for SCs and STs? Majority of assembly and parliamentary constituencies where a Muslim could easily win from any party if they were general are presently under ST or SC reserved categories. Take the case of Karimganj in Assam, for instance, where around 60 per cent voters are Muslim with only 20 per cent STs and SCs is a reserved seat since independent.
Who knows the remaining Muslim majority voters seats will not be reserved for women only – making way for strong Hindu woman to defeat her weak counter part in the election while enjoying ‘women empowerment’?
If we can and we have to go through a major constitutional amendment to legalize gender based reservation then why we cannot make the same constitutional amendment for a religion based reservation for Muslims – say Muslim women in this case?
Do not forget! Contrary to the recent gender based women reservation bill, passed undemocratically by the upper House of Indian parliament on 9th March 2010, a religion based political reservation Bill was passed by the parliament in the very early days of our republican and democratic India. It was 28th August 1947, just after 12 days following independence a bill was passed to ensure political reservation for scheduled castes (SCs) and the Muslims.
Reservation, actually, began on the basis of religion in the first place. An individual enjoys schedule caste (SC) status if he is a Hindu or Buddhist – that is his religion is the deciding factor. Muslims and Christians SC peoples do not get this benefit because of their religion. Even conversion of an SC or ST individual to other religion deprives him of the caste benefit!
Sachar Committee in its analysis of reservation in the three states of Bihar, UP and West Bengal has shown that how constituencies with 3-32 per cent Muslim population and 47-67 per cent SC population were kept general while constituencies with 32-60 per cent Muslim population and 10-26 per cent SC population were reserved for SCs. Thus the majority of the constituencies where Muslims can win have already been reserved for SCs and STs and Muslims can never fight in these constituencies come what may.
In West Bengal, Sagardghi Assembly constituency with 62 per cent Muslim population and 18 per cent SC population is an SC reserved seat while Sitai Assembly constituency with 67 per cent SC population and 27 per cent Muslim population is kept unreserved.
In Uttar Pradesh, Jansath Assembly constituency with 16 SC and 37 per cent Muslim population is a reserved seat while Marihan with 49 SC and 3 per cent Muslim has been kept open.
In Bihar, Dhuraiya with 10 SC and 30 Muslim per cent population is kept reserved while Dumaria with 39 SC and 13 per cent respectively have been kept unreserved.
These are the hard facts largely goes unnoticed while talking about appeasement of Muslims or while initiating ‘affirmative actions’ by a ‘secular’ Government since independence. I think it would be another historic blunder repeated by this country if the bill went through to become a law.
*The author is Director of Mumbai based Markazul Ma’arif and Editor Eastern Crescent magazine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org