The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panel suggests quota for Dalit Muslims

New Delhi, Nov. 16: A central panel’s suggestion to give Dalit Muslims a share of the other backward classes pie has the champions of the backwards cause caught in a cleft stick.

The Telegraph has learnt that the Sachar Committee wants the other backward classes split into two groups — other backward castes and most backward castes.

Dalit Muslims, who are now outside the ambit of reservation, should be included among the most backward castes, says the committee set up to determine the social status of Muslims.

The suggestion is not among the recommendations listed at the end of the report but occurs in a section inside that deals with the disadvantaged among the Muslims.

The OBC parties have been dreading such a recommendation for a long time. Already forced to share the benefits of reservation with certain Muslim groups who have been classified as backward, they are unwilling to let in the Dalit Muslims, too.

Yet, they cannot protest against the move too loudly, for Muslims form an important chunk of their vote bank, the so-called Muslim-Yadav axis.

These parties have, therefore, been arguing that Dalit Muslims and Christians should be clubbed with the scheduled castes, a demand the BJP has described as “condemnable and unconstitutional”.

Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav voiced the backward leaders’ fears yesterday. He seemed to be under the impression that the Sachar Committee would recommend bringing the entire Muslim community — including its elite — within the scope of other backward classes reservation.

“We hear that the Sachar Committee is likely to contemplate reservation for Muslims on the basis of religion by advocating the whole Muslim community as a socially and educationally backward class,” he said.

“The Sachar Committee is not competent to declare any class as backward. Only the National Commission of Backward Classes can decide which class of citizens is backward and not adequately represented in government jobs and services.”

He went on to say: “Talking of reservation for Muslims on religious grounds is against the interests of the backward castes among the community who are already the beneficiaries of reservation. These castes cannot compete with elite Muslims (if the elite, too, get reservation).”

Sources in the committee say the point of the recommendation is to highlight the economic, social and educational status of Muslims.

“Besides, the recommendation about bifurcation of the other backward classes is not really a new idea,” a source said.

“Such a suggestion was made in a note of dissent in the Mandal Commission as well as in the Kaka Kalelkar Commission on backward classes (in the 1950s).”

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