Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Interview with Asaduddin Owaisi: Only reservations will uplift Muslims, make India a stronger nation

Interviews with Asaduddin Owaisi, Member of Parliament & president, All India Majlis
Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)


The AP High Court’s order striking down 4.5 per cent sub-quota for
backward classes among minorities within the 27 per cent OBC quota has
come as a bolt from the blue for Muslims. The first major benefit of
the sub-quota was the qualification of about 400 candidates belonging
to Muslim, Christian and other minority communities in the IIT
entrance examination. This is the highest ever number of qualified
candidates from these communities. The court’s order, however, has hit
their high morale.

Asaduddin Owaisi, Hyderabad MP and president of All India Majlis
Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), blames the Centre for its poor legal
homework and argues that only reservations will help Muslims come up
the socio-economic ladder. In an exclusive interview with Syed Akbar,
he says Muslims have come out of emotive issues and they will not
believe the cosmetic promises of political parties. Muslims do not
need the post of the President or other Constitutional posts. They
need guaranteed education and employment. He further argues that quota
for Muslims will make India stronger, and the Congress, which had
ruled the country for the maximum period, should undo the historical
wrongs by ensuring quota for the principal minority community.

He warns that Muslims will be compelled to challenge the legality of
the quota for backward classes among Hindus, if there is continued
opposition to reservations for socially, economically and
educationally backward classes among Muslims.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Why do Muslims need reservations?

A. Muslims need quota for a number of reasons. First, when the
Constitution was being drafted, the issue of definition of backward
classes arose. One of the members of the Constituent Assembly asked
whether BCs include minorities. Sardar Patel said in the affirmative.

Secondly, to fulfill social justice. Thirdly, empirical data of Sachar
Committee and Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission show that Muslims
are socially and educationally backward.

Fourth, the argument that quota should not be based on religion is
wrong. Article 341 of Constitution and the 1950 Presidential Order
state that only Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists can be called Dalit. Is
this not based on religion? Article 341 violates the fundamental right
to equality.

Fifth, the quota for Muslims is based on their social, educational and
economic backwardness.

Sixth, Muslims face double competition. They have to compete with
forward classes on one hand, and those, who already enjoy quota, on
the other. The socio-economic indicators of Muslims are worse than
that of Dalits. Muslims make up just two per cent in civil services
and their number is virtually nil in class III and class IV employment.

We are not asking quota for Muslims of my socio-economic strata. We
are asking for quota for those Muslims, who are socially,
educationally and economically backward. Without reservations, Muslims
will not come up. And quota for Muslims will make India stronger.

Q. How would reservations for Muslims make India a strong nation?

A. Quota in education and employment will end the sense of alienation
and discrimination in the principal minority community of the country.
Denial of reservations will only lead to further discrimination and
thus further alienation.

The sub-quota for OBCs among minorities has thrown up about 440 seats
in IITs. For argument sake, if Muslims get even 100 seats it would
have a major psychological and social impact on their families and the
community. Andhra Pradesh is the biggest example of socio-economic
uplift of Muslims through quota. Thanks to reservations, thousands of
Muslims are studying medicine, dental, engineering, pharmacy, MCA and
MBA courses. All of them will contribute to the development of the

Q. Are not Muslims responsible for their backwardness?

A. I agree. But the main responsibility lies in the ruling class. Many
Muslims live in ghettoes. They do not have basic civic amenities. They
are being targeted on false charges of terrorism. Justice is not done
to the community. Muslims on their part should do some introspection.

Right now, the agenda is security and development. The community has
moved away from emotive issues, signaling political parties not to
indulge in cosmetic promises.

We do not want the post of the President or other Constitutional
posts. We want education and employment. We want to see our children
as doctors, engineers, and scientists.

Q. Courts have constantly been striking down quota for Muslims. Do you
feel that the government has not done its homework properly?

A. In the 4.5 per cent sub-quota case, the AP High Court has clearly
indicated in paragraph 49 of its judgment that the assistant
solicitor-general has failed to provide data on minority backwardness.

In 1984-85, the AP government included 93 classes in the BC list
through a half page recommendation by the BC Commission. The case of
Muslim backwardness has been presented in about 350 pages. I
respectfully beg to differ from the court judgment. It is not a new
quota. No new backward classes were added to the existing list. The
Centre has created a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for OBCs belonging to
minority communities already included in the list.

Q. Do you feel that amending Constitution will help Muslims get a
secured quota?

A. There is no need for Constitutional amendment. Had it been so,
Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission and others would have recommended
it. The government needs to put forward all the data before court. The
Centre did not apply its mind.

The 4.5 per cent quota is insufficient. Justice Ranganath Mishra
Commission had recommended 15 per cent quota for minorities including
10 per cent quota for Muslims. It had suggested at least eight per
cent quota for Muslims and two per cent for other minorities.

Q. What are the loopholes the government needs to fix to make Muslim
quota legally valid?

A. The government should do more homework. Quota for Muslims is
bitterly disliked by the Sangh Parivar. When there is a formidable
opponent, the government should proceed with extreme caution. There
should be no loopholes. While moving the special leave petition, the
Central government should get all the relevant data and scientifically
present it before court.

When the Centre came up with scholarship scheme for Muslims, the Sangh
Parivar had challenged it. But the court had upheld the scheme. What
we need is proper presentation of the case before court.

If quota for Muslims is continuously challenged, Muslims will
challenge the legality of BC quota, as there is no empirical data. The
National Commission for Backward Classes has not done a periodic review.

If the Congress fails to deliver the quota, it will become an
albatross around its neck. The general complaint is that the Congress
ruled the country for a very long time. To dispel or undo all
historical wrongs, it is the best opportunity for the Congress.

Through a simple majority, the 1950 Presidential Order can be amended
to include Muslims and Christians in the definition of the term, Dalit.

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