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Muslims demand benefits

Muslims demand benefits

Author: Akhilesh Suman
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 11, 2007

Thousands of Pasmanda (OBC and Dalit) Muslims gathered here on Saturday under the banner of All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj to demand speedy implementation of Sachar Committee Report and to protest against the "conspiracy" of the elite upper caste Muslims to deny them the benefits of reservation.

The protesters also submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying that the soul of the Sachar Committee report was to highlight the plight of backward and Dalit Muslims. Specific policies under the 15-point programme for Muslims, as announced by the UPA Government, should cater to the Pasmanda Muslims, the memorandum added.

"There should be planning for the backward Muslims, including the Dalit Muslims, wherever possible in conjunction with their counterparts in other religions with mechanisms to preclude discrimination and the Planning for non-backward poor Muslims should be undertaken as for the poor among all religious communities," the memorandum stated.

This socially variegated profile of the Muslim religious community has been identified by Sachar Committee, too, and classified as Ashraf, Ajlaf and Arzal (forward, backward and most backward).

While rubbishing the demand by a section of Muslim leadership, the convener of the gathering called Pasmanda Mahapanchayat, Ali Anwar said, "Sachar Committee recommends to make a difference in the Muslim community on the basis of caste and provide justice to the lower caste Muslims as per their social and educational backwardness among the community itself."

According to Anwar, "It is a conspiracy of the elite and traditional Muslim leadership to see the community as homogeneous and monolithic." The treatment of OBC and Dalit Muslims should be on par with those in the Hindu community, he added.

Pasmanda is a new political phenomenon in the country as till now Muslims were not differentiated according to their "caste". It is seen as a direct challenge to the traditional Muslim leadership which uses emotive or religious issues to mobilise support.

Anwar, who is a Rajya Sabha member associated with the Janata Dal (U), was spearheading this movement for last few years and it fetched results in the Bihar Assembly election when majority of Pasmanda Muslims revolted against traditional Muslim politics that helped Lalu Prasad Yadav for a decade.

"Our main concern is to raise the issue of economic deprivation and unemployment among the Muslims and we want to take the community away from the fold of mosques and mullahs," Anwar asserted. "We are the worst sufferers of the UPA Government's economic policies that are adversely affecting weavers and retailers in the country," he added.

Sharad Yadav, president of Janata Dal (U), was present at the rally and he extended full support to the demands of Pasmanda Muslims.

The Pasmanda leaders criticised the old Muslim leadership right from Abul Kalam Azad and said most of those who wanted to stay back in India after Partition were Pasmanda Muslims, but were not given importance by the community's elites.

"When Baba Saheb Ambedkar asked Azad whether he (Azad) wanted reservation for Dalit Muslims as Hindu Dalits have got, Azad replied in the negative, saying that all Muslims read Kalama together so there is no distinction amongst the community on the basis of caste," said Hazi Muhammad Khalil Ansari, one of the leaders present in the gathering who came from Bihar.

"Who are Pasmanda Muslims, only those who converted form lower caste Hindus and are still being identified by their pre-conversion caste identities and social status," Haroon Ansari, another leader, told The Pioneer. The rally that started from Daryaganj in Delhi terminated at Jantar Mantar near Parliament. People were standing for more than four hours to hear their leaders amidst the rain and cold winter breeze.

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