OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

The recommendations of Rajinder Sachar committee on socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in India, were tabled in parliament. Muslims make up roughly 13 percent of India’s population of 1.1 billion. The Rajinder Sachar Committee has favoured a group of Muslims with traditional occupations as that of Scheduled Castes be designated as Most Backward Classes. Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay said he expected the implementation of the recommendations by February. The BJP today rejected the Sachar committee report as “full of prejudices” and said it would create disharmony in the society. The seven-member committee headed by Rajinder Sachar, a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was set up to go into the social, economic and educational status of Muslims. The CPI-M meanwhile claimed that the report has proved wrong the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and RSS ( Sangh )stance on “Muslim appeasement”.

Offstumped gets to the bottom of the politics surrounding the Sachar Report to help parse the spin from the truth.

So what exactly did Rajinder Sachar and his Fellowship of Seven uncover. We dont exactly know because the report has not been published in the public domain. It however was distributed in Parliament and select portions of it had been leaked to the media much in advance of its official submission. It is rather strange that the selective leaking was on for many months now before the report was officially completed but there was hardly a murmur on who was leaking and why. In any case from the tid-bits gleaned from across media reports the Sachar Findings can be summarized as follows:

– percentage of Muslims in government employment was a mere 4.9 per cent of the total 88,44,669 employees

– The number of Muslims in security agencies was 3.2 per cent – 60,517 out of the total of 18,79,134 in CRPF, CISF, BSF, SSB and ‘other agencies’

– many states Muslims are significantly overrepresented in prison

– In Maharashtra, for instance, Muslims make up 10.6 percent of the population but 32.4 percent of those convicted or facing trial

– Among district judges in 15 states surveyed, 2.7 percent were Muslim

– the literacy rate is about 59 percent, compared with more than 65 percent among Indians as a whole. On average, a Muslim child attends school for three years and four months, compared with a national average of four years.

– Less than 4 percent of Muslims graduate from school, compared with 6 percent of the total population. Less than 2 percent of the students at the elite Indian Institutes of Technology are Muslim. Equally revealing, only 4 percent of Muslim children attend madrasas

From an overall Muslim empowerment standpoint Dravidian ruled Tamil Nadu and Narendra Modi Ruled Gujarat are at the top of the deck while the communist ruled West Bengal is at the bottom. There in lies the key message from the Sachar Report. For decades now since Independence we have witnessed Muslim Vote Bank Politics practiced by the Congress and the other regional outfits including the communists while paying lip service to secularism and claiming cover under protecting Minority Interests. So when the CPI-M and the Congress seek to make the case that the Sachar Report nails the BJP lie one cannot but wonder what make believe parallel universe the Congress and the Communists dwell in.

If anything the Sachar findings far from nailing any lie, make it loud and clear that Muslim Vote Bank Politics have been all about Minority Appeasement and not about Minority Empowerment. They were never really about caring for the ordinary Muslim on the road but were always about how the Congress and the Communists could trade power, entitlements and fear in exchange for the Muslim Vote Bank. Be it the Shah Bano Case, be it the kow-towing to fatwas and Ulema, be it the indulgence of the Shahi Imam on key political issues, be it Haj Subsidy or Wakf Board freebies.

In fact the most damning indictment of the Muslim Vote Bank Politics is the statistic on the crime rate within the community and the number of Muslims in Jail. In the wake of the Malegaon Blasts Offstumped had pointed out that – from Coimbatore to North Kerala to Telangana to Maharashtra to Bihar, ghetoissation of muslim majority towns is radicalizing muslim youth who have fallen behind on economic opportunities. While the fifth economic census released earlier this year showed that rural India saw free enterprise flourish it is clear that this growth has not created sufficient workforce mobility to de-ghettoise muslim the community. This explains the high rate of incidence of crime within this segment. It also explains why the Malegaon Blasts which targetted muslims were the handiwork of muslim outfits like the SIMI.

The political debate around the Sachar Report is likely to revolve around the question of reservations or affirmative actions for Muslims. The battle lines are very clearly drawn. Like the OBC reservation debate it looks like this debate too will very quickly degenerate into one about creating a culture of entitlement rather than one of empowerment and independence. Rather than focus on access to educational opportunities and subsequent empowerment it now looks certain that the Congress and its Communist allies will resort to myopics shortcuts of doling out Government jobs to Muslims.

Unless the government’s policy focus is firmly on de-ghettoization and workforce mobility any initiatives targetting religious Minorities will be mere lip service and will lead to further institutionalization of vote bank politics which we have seen fuels radicalization and shelters terrorism. When one looks at an Azim Premji heading WIPRO, an Abdul Kalam heading India, an Azharudding heading the Indian Cricket Team, an Aamir Khan or Shahrukh Khan captivating minds and hearts, one sees a succesful Indian professional not a Muslim. One has to only travel to Hyderabad to see how scores of Muslim I.T. professionals have done well for themselves in a Microsoft or a Infosys rendering religious identity irrelavant.

In the run up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections, the nation is faced with a very important choice - should it promote the Congress/Communist myopic vote bank politics of extending reservations to muslims or should it rather do what is really expected of a secular government which is make religious identity irrelvant through ubiquitous access to opportunities and thus empowerment. 

The Nation would do well to pay attention to an instructive case study on how Muslim Vote Bank Politics can hurt the nation. Loook at what the illigeal immigration from Bangladesh into Assam and West Bengal is doing to our democracy. By cultivating the migrants muslims from Bangladesh as a captive vote bank and by refusing to act tough on the illilegality of their migration, the Congress in Assam sowed the seeds for perennial strife in that state. The Communists in neighbouring West Bengal who paid further lip service to secularism while exploiting these immigrant votes, and doing little to improve their lot. Now you have a situation where the proliferation of Islamic Terror from Bangladesh is on the upswing. And this proliferation has ample safe havens to thrive with the rise of Islamic a concerted movement by Muslim bodies to consolidate a Islamic Vote Bank which in Assam saw the Badruddin Ajmal AUDF bag 10 seats while polling just a mere 24% of the votes in an election that saw 70-80% turnout. The lesson from Assam was that despite a fragmented polity, there was sufficient consolidation of Muslim votes behind an upapologetically Muslim Political Outfit to ensure electoral victory despite very high overall voter turnouts and a very low vote share to the Muslim outfit. The twin effect of Muslim Vote Bank Politics is that it will not only promote unapologetically religious politics but will also further polarize the society as the vote consolidation in favor of one religion is bound to provoke a similar vote polarization in favor of the other religion.

Offstumped Bottomline: For all the spin from the communists and the congress, the message from the Sachar Report is loud and clear – Muslim Vote Bank Politics have lead to Minority Appeasement not Minority Empowerment. Any talk of Reservations or that fancy american catch phrase Affirmative Action is nothing but Muslim Vote Bank Politics and must be rejected wholesale. Recognizing Madrassas as a formal education centers is dangerous and retrograde step.  The Government would do well to focus its attention on access to education and opportunities rather than dole out State Sponsored Entitlements. 

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