LETTER TO MRS SONIA GANDHI (Jan. 19, 2006)
[Here is the document containing Chairman IOS Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam’s observations and suggestions on some of the most important issues that face Muslims today. This was sent to Chairperson UPA Mrs Sonia Gandhi and other concerned members of her team on January 17, 2006]
DISCRIMINATION IN COMPENSATION There is a clear evidence of an emerging norm of discrimination in compensation given to the next of kin of innocent Muslims killed in organised violence.
A recent example is Bihar. When six innocent Fakirs (Muslims) were massacred in East Champaran district of the state, Nitish just kept quiet (a la Narendra Modi), and did not budge at all. The government announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for each of the five killed, which was a clear insult to them.
On the other hand, when six equally innocent Mahtos (Hindus) were massacred in neighbouring Vaishali district Nitish lost no time in reaching there. He made a fiery speech, sacked the local police station chief (incidentally, a Muslim), and initiated legal and administrative action instantaneously.
Responses to the grief of different sections of society have been glaringly different. Your visit to Orissa in the wake of a similar massacre and announcement of Rs 5 lakh compensation for every person killed shows that such compensation should be given in all similar cases.
People who have been victims of such organised violence need more adequate compensation, like the package announced for the victims of 1984 riots. We welcome such a move and suggest that this package should be adopted as a model of compensation for all other massacres, because so far that is the most fair package. However, we note with dismay that Muslims have constantly been discriminated against in this crucial regard. Whether it is Nellie massacre or Bhagalpur massacre, Bombay riots or Gujarat pogrom, the discrimination has been there.
RESERVATION The second issue that concerns us deeply is that of reservation. The principle of “affirmative action”, on which reservation in educational institutions and jobs is based, seeks to address the problem of extraordinary backwardness of certain sections of society. Findings by National Social Survey Organisation and quoted by Union ministry of human resource development show that Muslims as a whole have fallen behind in development. They are at the same level of underdevelopment as neo-Buddhists. That is, at the bottom of the heap.
Similar findings have been made by Institute of Objective Studies (IOS), Indian Social Institute (ISI), National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and others. All that requires some state intervention like reservation. A similar resolution was passed at a two-day general council meeting of the All India Milli Council last month at Jaipur. The council also expressed concern over Andhra Pradesh High Court’s nullification of two attempts by the state government to provide five percent reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for Muslims.
Contrary to Sangh propaganda, the Constitution of India does have a provision for reservation of all sections of society that need such support. Already we have such reservation for Muslims in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. We would like that the UPA government moves ahead with its plans for remedial action.
ALIGARH MUSLIM UNIVERSITY The case of AMU is even more worrisome for us as the Allahabad High Court seeks to undo its minority character. The status granted to the AMU is based on the high principles of allowing the minorities to have educational institutions of their own. Now that this important principle is being challenged on mere technical grounds, it is for the Union government to secure the AMU’s traditional status through ordinance and, ultimately, through proper legislation. We hope the UPA government will ponder these issues seriously and act on them.
MUSLIM EMPOWERMENT The fourth issue that we would like to raise is regarding the empowerment of Muslims by including them proportionately in important ministerial and administrative positions in numbers commensurate with their share in population. Their participation in governance can be expanded through nomination, political appointments on important panels, and through special selection and co-option. Until all such available options are exercised, Muslims are not likely to get even a modicum of their due in fruits of development.
Finally, we would like to draw your attention to the pressures on the country’s sovereignty in matters of foreign policy. We would like to see the UPA take an upright stance on all matters of foreign policy rather than buckle under pressure from big powers. That is more important now that India itself is on way to becoming a big power. This is particularly important in the context of the coming crunch on Iran. India being one of the leaders of the Afro-Asian world it should not send any signals to the developing and underdeveloped countries that it no longer stands with them. Such an impression will weaken India’s standing with the whole post-colonial world. We hope that being the chairperson of UPA you would take care to address these issues..