Muslim opinion on four percent quota divided


Hyderabad : The Andhra Pradesh government's decision to provide four percent reservations in government jobs and education to 15 backward classes among Muslims has evoked mixed reactions from the Muslim community while the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to challenge it in court.

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While the United Muslim Action Committee (UMAC), comprising Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and other Muslim political, social and religious groups, has opposed the move by terming it as an attempt to divide the community, Muslim leaders belonging to the ruling Congress party and others have welcomed the decision.

The state cabinet Wednesday decided to bring an ordinance to implement four percent reservations to 15 socially and educationally backward Muslim groups in jobs and education from the 2007-08 academic year.

The move came after the earlier attempts of the government to provide five percent reservations to the Muslim community as a whole were struck down by the courts. In an attempt to avoid legal problems, the government also reduced the quantum of reservation by one percent and excluded several groups, which constitute the 'creamy layer' of the community.

However, the move has sparked a controversy with a section of Muslims terming it a 'divisive move'. Some Islamic seminaries also issued a 'fatwa' or edict against division of Muslims into castes.

The BJP and its student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have once again decided to challenge the government's move in court.

State BJP general secretary K. Laxman told reporters late Wednesday that his party would approach court after getting a copy of the backward classes commission's recommendation based on which the government declared the reservations.

He alleged that the decision would affect the interests of backward classes and announced the plan to launch mass protests. "The government acted in haste and with an eye on the coming elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation despite courts ruling against the religion-based reservations," he said.

MIM leader and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said it was an attempt by the government to divide the Muslim community. "It will not stand the test of law. The Krishnan report is full of flaws and contradictions and they will be fully exploited by the opponents of Muslim reservation," Owaisi said in a statement.

The state government had appointed retired official P. Krishnan to identify backward classes among Muslims on the basis of their traditional professions.

"It is a poisoned chalice the Muslims are offered to drink," Owaisi remarked on the government move. He recalled that Muslim leaders had met the chief minister and warned him of serious repercussions the move would have.

The MP alleged that the government wanted to wash its hands of the whole issue by providing reservations without proper homework. He pointed out that poor planning had led to the courts setting aside reservations on two occasions since 2005. He said UMAC would meet Friday to chalk out its future course of action.

Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), a students' body affiliated to Jamaat-e-Islami, has welcomed the reservations. "This move will benefit hundreds of Muslim students", said SIO Hyderabad unit president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. He wanted the state government to take steps to ensure that there were no legal hurdles in its implementation.

The Muslim leaders of the Congress have also hailed the move. Party leader in state legislative council and former minister Mohammed Ali Jaani said he did not agree that identifying backward classes among Muslims was an attempt to divide them. He alleged that some leaders were seeking 'fatwa' from seminaries for their own vested interests.

Former education minister Basheeruddin Babu Khan has also found fault with the fatwa issued by some seminaries and welcomed the quota for backward Muslims. He argued that it was not possible to provide reservations to the entire community.