By the unique standards of India, seven years is probably too little a time for any real change. But so far as the country’s largest minority community is concerned, even a cosmetic one seems to have gone missing. Following the Sachar committee’s revelation in 2006 that Muslim backwardness was comparable to that affecting many backward Hindu communities for whom reservations had been granted, it was expected that some soul-searching would lead to affirmative action on the part of the government. There has been debate and grandstanding in the intervening years, but if the pattern of government-employment is any indication, these have not led to much change on the ground. After a slight improvement, Muslim share in government employment has dipped to a low of 6.24 per cent, making it the most disproportionate figure among minority communities. Employment of the kind evaluated here is the end result of education. Given that there has been little increase in the number of Muslims going for higher education, the figures are probably expected. Therein lies the unkindest cut. There has hardly been much brainstorming or effort at increasing the accessibility or appeal of education to the community that remains bound to traditional low-paying jobs for the lack of education, the rewards from which do not seem to be any more forthcoming than they were years back. In fact, open discrimination and persecution of the community, particularly in urban areas, seem to have further reduced the attraction of modern education. For members of the community, education, after all, has proved no guarantee against being branded anti-national or being treated as less equal to members of the majority community.
The Ranganath Mishra commission had suggested that reservations be extended to the community, and at least four states in southern India have manipulated the other backward classes quota to accommodate the community without awe-inspiring results. Quite certainly, reservations do not promote inclusivity that can address Muslim isolation. The political game at the national level — that has invariably embroiled the issue in an unceasing debate over appeasement politics — has done immense harm. Development concerns must necessarily be separated from politics for redress to be done.