“In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves and to our country.” – John F. Kennedy
The recent Supreme Court judgment to uphold 27% reservation in higher education institutions was indeed a slap across the face of the anti-reservation lobby. It created a sense of security and self-confidence for the backward communities in India. The judgment has turned out to be the final result of the legal war between the pro-reservation and the anti-reservation groups. This war started when the Union Educational Minister Arjun Singh announced the extension of reservation benefits to the other backward castes, which includes 20 central universities, the IITs, IIMs and all colleges supported by the Central Government in the light of the Mandal Commission recommendations. It has invalidated the court’s interim order of March 29, 2007 staying the implementation of the quota and is the practical step towards implementing the 93rd constitutional amendment that allows the state to legislate in order to assure reservation for backward classes in all government aided, private, unaided (excluding minority institutions) educational institutions. The verdict has once again put back the primordial aims attributed to the article 15 (4) of the constitution (that allows the state to make special privileges for the upliftment of socially and educationally backward sections).
The most ironical part of the issue was that those groups, who were protesting and waging a war against the reservation announcement of the Union Government, also welcomed the recent Supreme Court verdict! These elements were carrying out protests, rejecting the basic idea of reservation, which the court has rejected. It was clear that the welcome statements made by these groups were aimed to cover the gloom and sense of guilt caused by this judgment.
They are and have been constantly questioning the concept of 27% reservation, whereas the figures spell out that of the total Indian population, 16.2% are scheduled castes, 8.2% are scheduled tribes and 52% belongs to OBCs, but the forward sections account to only 23.6%. It is interesting to note that the lion’s share of higher education lies in the hands of this less than 1/4th of the total population. This will be easily found if glanced through the representation of backward communities in IITs, IIMs, NITs, and AIIMS, etc. Nevertheless the Mandal Commission recommended just 27% reservation for OBCs. That means instead of population-wise 52%, only 27%!
What does the Constitution of India say? In Article 15 of the Constitution, after clause (4), the following clause was inserted as Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act, 2005, namely:
“(5) Nothing in this Article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of Article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30.”
The statement: “Nothing shall prevent the State from making any special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” Article 15(4) was actually added in the first ever Constitutional amendment in 1951 which was piloted by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, but following the judgment delivered in 2005, in the case of Inamdar Vs State of Maharashtra, this clause was edited in such a manner that the private institutions were accommodated in the reservation provision.
The above-mentioned Constitutional provision has only been implemented in the institutions run by the Central Government. It has to be enacted at the state governed institutions too without delay, since the major chunk of the OBCs in our country are studying in these institutes.
It is a fact that Islam is a major egalitarian faith existing in the world. Islam outright rejects caste based social stratification and discrimination. It propagates that the whole of humankind is equal and those who have faith and piety are superior before God Almighty. But because of reasons pertaining to history, Muslims especially in North India are divided into classes. Majority of Indian Muslims are descendants of ‘untouchable’ and ‘low’ castes of India, with only a small minority tracing their origins to Arab, Iranian and Central Asian descent. Going by this classification, an overwhelming 75% of Muslim population
would fall into the ajlaf
(low) category. Conversion to the egalitarian faith
has not helped their cause. This happenned so because the ajlaf
continued to be discriminated against by the Muslim upper castes. Such discriminatory practises are most visible in the Northern States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Ninety-nine per cent of the Muslim community (Malayakkandi Mappila and all other sections excluding Bora, Kachi Meman, Navayath, Thurakkan, Deccani Muslims) comes under the reservation category of OBCs in Kerala, which is considered to be comparatively well off than the Muslims of other states in India. This is almost the case with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, whereas most of the Muslim classes in other states, which are socially, economically and educationally more backward are not accommodated in the reservation category. The government must take appropriate steps to actively tackle this situation and make reservation more fruitful by accommodating all deserving sections of Muslims in the reservation category.
The Supreme Court in its verdict has categorically stated that the creamy layer in the OBC must be excluded. Indeed reservation is to make access to proper education
and job opportunities for the most socially discriminated groups, but what the Supreme Court has upheld is the caste based reservation as an affirmative action to bring up the under-represented communities. This privelege must entirely be granted to the respective communities under any circumstances. The Supreme Court in yet another clarrification on the judjment, has told that the creamy layer will not be accepted under any circumstances. The government while framing the law must make sure that the vacant seats of 27% OBC quota will not be opened for general category and the reserved vacant seats be allotted to the ‘creamy layer’. If the clarification on judgment stands as a hindrance, a review petition must be filed in the Supreme Court in this regard.
Indeed reservation is not the only solution for the upliftment of the socially deprived classes, including Muslims in India. It is high time for the different religious organisations and community leaders to think loud over other solutions to the problem. Only then will we able to overcome this multidimensional crisis.