Cochin Declaration 2007 : SIMCON
SOUTH INDIAN MUSLIM CONFERENCE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
CHARTER OF DEMANDS OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY
FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BY THE CENTRAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS
16-17 June, 2007
at Al-Ameen Educational Complex, Edappally, Kochi 24
1. The Muslim community in India unanimously appreciate the bold step taken by Shri. Manmohan Singh, Honarable Prime Minister, in appointing Sachar Committee to examine the socio- economic and educational status of the Muslim community and to prepare a comprehensive report on these aspects. The community is also unanimous in appreciating the comprehensive study carried out by the Sachar Committee and for producing an authentic report for the first time in India showing the nature and extent of the socio-economic and educational deprivation of the Indian Muslim community. The community is also encouraged by the positive comments given so far by some political parties, intellectuals, economists, media persons etc suggesting affirmative action by the State in the light of the Sachar committee findings.
2. Chapter after chapter, the Sachar Committee Report surveys the Muslim scene from different angles and all its analyses converge towards the basic conclusion that the Muslim community as a whole constitutes a Backward Class almost as backward as the SC/ST. The committee has also exploded the myth of â€œappeasement of Muslims by the governmentâ€?. The Committee's findings rudely shatter the illusion that India has succeeded in, or is on the way to, building an inclusive, secular and multi-religious society in which the minorities do not face discrimination by virtue of their faith. In fact, India has veered way off this course and managed to create a New Underclass, of 150 million Muslims. The New Underclass faces exclusion and systematic discrimination at multiple levels. It's a victim of poverty, lack of access to public services and civic amenities, educational and social backwardness, and severe under-representation in government jobs. It also has a low, sub-optimal presence in politics. As a follow up to its findings, the Committee should have made the obvious recommendation that the Muslim community be recognized as socially and educationally backward Class and be provided with reservation in public sector jobs and educational facilities. However for some reason, it doest not have a summary of its conclusions and suggestions or a clear cut list of its recommendations as normally such reports do.
3. The community has held many seminars, symposia, workshops, meetings and conferences at various levels all over the country. It has been doing its home work so far but yet to produce a concrete Charter of Demands which should be reasonable, practicable, just, equitable and fair, which do not clash with the Constitution, which do not even ask for anything special but only for what has been done or is being done for the SC/STs in the last 50 years in order to empower the community to attain the legitimate constitutional rights and to undo the injustice shown to the community. The Community is now beginning to feel that it has been provided with yet another report and yet nothing will happen because nothing can happen, unless and until workable demands are distilled from the Report and crystallized. Hence this Cochin Declaration and Charter of Demands. This document also attempts to give some components of a broad frame work for a sub-plan for development of the Muslim community.
4. Availability of reliable data on a continuing basis across Socio-Religious Communities (SRCs) on socio-economic conditions, participation in government programmes and the like is critical for designing appropriate policies, ensuring transparency and effectively monitoring various initiatives and programmes. The present compilation of the data brought out by the Sachar committee should be followed up on a regular basis. As pointed out by the Sachar committee, enumeration of castes/groups is critical to assess the equitable distribution of benefits meant for groups included in those categories. The central government may, therefore, take measures to collect and compile the socio-economic and educational status of Muslim community in India on a regular basis through the census operations. As suggested by the Sachar Committee, the central Government may also take action to create a National Data Bank (NDB) where relevant data about different socio-religious communities could be stored to facilitate any research study and subsequent action.
5. Equity and inclusion in a pluralistic society like India will only be possible when the importance of Muslims as an intrinsic part of the diverse Indian social mosaic is squarely recognized. It is a well accepted maxim in law that not only must justice be done but it must appear to be done. Therefore, as recommended by the Sachar Committee, the central government may establish an Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) to look into the grievances of the deprived groups, especially Muslims.
6. The participation of Muslims in nearly all political spaces is low. Muslims in India do not have the necessary influence or the opportunity to either change or even influence the events having direct relation to their active participation in development process. Therefore, there is a strong case to put mechanisms in place that enable them to engage in democratic processes at various levels of polity and governance. The Central and State governments may formulate and implement new procedures including nomination procedures for increased participation of Muslims in the democratic institutions such as Parliament, state legislatures, local self governments and co-operative institutions. The central and state governments may also facilitate more rational delimitation procedure that does not reserve constituencies with high minority population shares for SCs to improve the opportunity for the Muslims, to contest and get elected to the Indian Parliament and the State Assemblies.
7. Access to education is critical for benefiting from emerging opportunities that are accompanied by economic growth. The Sachar Committee report brings out clearly the educational deprivation experienced by the Muslim community. From lower levels of enrollment to a sharp decline in participation in higher levels of education, the situation of Indian Muslims is indeed very depressing. And the problem is more acute for girls/women. Therefore, Central and State Governments may take steps:
a) To provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14. Fulfillment of this obligation is critical for improvements in the educational conditions of Muslims.
b) For setting up exclusive schools for girls particularly for the 9-12 standards as this would facilitate higher participation of Muslim girls in school education.
c) For appointing more women teachers in co-education schools
d) For arranging skill development through ITIs and polytechnics on sectors which have high growth potential and in which the Muslim population is concentrated.
e) For establishment of vocational schools and ITIs for non-metric drop outs in Talukas having substantial populations of Muslims.
f) To encourage the University Grants Commission (UGC) to evolve a system where part of the allocation to colleges and universities is linked to the diversity in the student population through admission of Muslim students.
g) For creating hostel facilities at reasonable costs for Muslim students especially for girls, in cities of all sizes to ensure that girls would continue schooling (beyond secondary/college education) as they would not have to commute on a daily basis to access educational institutions located at a distance from their place of residence.
h) To accommodate Urdu in schools of the Hindi region under the Three Language Formula and to provide a regular stream of Urdu teachers.
i) To introduce Urdu as an optional subject in all government and government-aided schools in states having a substantial Urdu speaking population.
j) For granting merit cum means scholarships to Muslim students at all levels.
k) To facilitate establishment of professional colleges and private universities by the Muslims under Article 30 of the Constitution.
l) Full-fledged campuses of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamiah Milliah University should be started in Muslim majority districts of the country.
8. Anyone with social consciousness and responsibility will be shocked by the near total absence of Muslims in various national and state government structures. The status of Indian Muslims today is not very different from that of the Dalits at the time of independence, which led to constitutional affirmative action in their favour. Indeed, in some aspects, Muslims today are even worse off or more disadvantaged than Dalits as per all studies conducted already by various agencies. Muslims are outside social and economic planning and developmental programmes both as providers and receivers. The Sachar Committee has also stated that the benefits of entitlement meant for the backward classes are yet to reach the Muslims. This is not a pretext for quota demand. This is a right for true diversity- diversity natural to our population but not reflected in the public spheres because of discrimination and unequal opportunity. The Sachar Committee has brought out that Muslims are lagging far behind in educational, economic and social spheres, which automatically makes them backward class under the Indian system of governance. The Sachar Committee has also highlighted the significant gains achieved by the SCs and STs in the recent past in the educational and economic fields through affirmative actions including reservation in public sector jobs and educational institutions. Reservation is, therefore, the master key to political, economic and social empowerment of a backward community. Oppressed people across social divide have come to look quotas as empowerment.
9. The central and state governments may, therefore, declare Muslim community as a whole as a socially and educationally backward class under Article 15(4) of the Constitution and hence give them reservation in admission of students in educational institutions and government employment.
10. The central and state government may also create separate sub-quota for Muslim Community within the OBC quota, proportionate to their share in national/state population which should cover higher education, public employment, etc.
11. The central government may take immediate steps to suitably amend the presidential order of 1950 to make all scheduled caste converts, irrespective of the religion of the conversion eligible, for all the concessions available to SCs. (If para 9 stands like the above examine the relevance of this para)
12. The constitution has no provision for creamy layer within the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes precisely because of the compelling realties of their socio-economic oppression and exploitation. On the other hand, in respect of reservation for OBCs, while upholding the constitutional amendments made by the parliament, supreme court has infact redefined the policy of reservation for OBCs and its implementation. The central government may take appropriate legal steps including amendments to the constitution to provide reservation for OBCs on the lines of SC/ST reservation.
13. There is neither statistical basis nor expert evidence to support the assumption that efficiency will be impaired if reservation exceeds 50%. The exact percentage of reservation needed may vary from state to state. The elected representatives in the legislative assembly are the best forum to decide the exact quantum of reservation needed for the state. Therefore, necessary legal remedies may be explored to enhance the 27% upper limit to provide better opportunities for the deprived communities.
14. Why Muslims should not have an adequate share in the Police and paramilitary services with which their very security of life and property is involved? There is no justification for exclusion on any basis as most of these forces constitute class III and Class IV employees. Therefore, central and state governments may take measures to make police forces and paramilitary more broad-based and cosmopolitan, with sufficient number of Muslims and other minorities recruited to it. Special recruitment drives should be launched to remove the imbalances now prevailing in these vital services.
15. Wherever the central and state governments has to make appointment though nominations, in the Public sector undertakings, a system should be put in place to have a fair number of the Muslim representatives. Similarly, every recruiting agency or Services Commission set up to select and recruit public sector personal must have adequate number of Muslim representatives so that the sense of discrimination now prevailing may end.
16. Muslims are not getting their due share in recruitment to Armed Forces. A large majority of the armed forces consists of matriculates and non matriculates. It is highly illogical to argue that eligible and qualified Muslims candidates in adequate members are not available for selection against such posts. Prejudice and discrimination at certain quarters is responsible for this situation. While we believe that in the armed forces merit alone should be the criteria for recruitment, within this framework, every effort should be made by the central Government to ensure adequate representation of the Muslims in armed forces so as to create in them a sense of national belonging and full participation in the defense of the country.
17. The central and state governments may issue appropriate guidelines to the concerned authorities to provide employment to the Muslims proportionate to their size in the population of the area under the Rural Employment programmes.
18. Muslim under-representation in the judiciary is also glaring. Barring Andhra (an exception for historical reasons), Muslims have a much lower profile in the judicial services than their population share. This under-representation inevitably gets reflected in religious prejudice and skewed or communal judgments. To secure better representation of the Muslims in judiciary, the central and state governments may facilitate their appointment as judges of District Courts, High Courts and Supreme Court in adequate number.
19. Frequent communal riots not only demoralize the Muslims but render them destitute, making them lose whatever little they have. Nobody among those whose job is to protect the lives and property of citizens has been made accountable or punished. Thousands are getting killed, more thousands are left injured and homeless and still nobody in the executive machinery is getting punished for his/her lapse or complicity. Therefore, the central government may make appropriate changes in the Communal Violence (prevention, control and rehabilitation of victims) Bill 2005 to make the executive accountable for the outbreak of communal violence and failure to take prompt measures to control it and rehabilitate the victims. The recommendations of Justice Sri Krishna commission, appointed by government of Maharashtra after the Mumbai riots, should be implemented.
20. The 1984 â€˜packageâ€™ for riot victims should apply retrospectively to all victims of communal violence since 1984.
21. One place where Muslims are over-represented is prisons. Barring Assam, the proportion of Muslims in prison is considerably higher than their share in the population. Anti-Muslim discrimination has intensified in recent years as a result of the government's Islamophobic "counter-terrorism" strategy. This is reflected in the harsh application of discriminatory measures to Muslims. All this amounts to systematic exclusion, discrimination and institutionalized prejudice. Many in India out of ignorance are still in denial mode about an anti-Muslim bias in this society. The central government may, therefore, establish a standing machinery to periodically review the anti Muslim bias in the central and state legislations and law enforcement machineries.
22. An appropriate legislation may be enacted to protect the honour and dignity of the Muslim community against denigration, demonisation and vilification and bring statutory curbs on incendiary and provocative speeches and statements.
23. Since large number of the Muslim community including Muslim women, are engaged in traditional work as artisans and self-employed, it is essential to make credit available to them. Smooth flow of credit from financial institutions, banks and various corporations for self-employment, micro-enterprises and small and medium scale industries must be ensured. Measures may, therefore, be taken for enhancing credit to Muslims in Priority Sector Advances. Any shortfall in achievement of targeted amount in minority specific programmes should be parked with NMDFC and specific programmes should be funded with this amount. Separate co-operative societies and co-operative bank should be started for various Muslim artisans groups especially for women. Formalities for registration for all theses institutions and allotments of necessary funds to support these institutions make easier.
24. Analysis of the Census of India 2001 results has indicated that banking facilities are inversely correlated to the proportion of the Muslim population in a village/locality. This issue should be addressed on a priority basis. The central and state governments may provide incentives to banks to open more branches in Muslim concentration areas.
25. There is a widespread perception that participation of Muslims in the Self Help Groups (SHGs) and other micro-credit programmes is very limited. A policy to enhance the participation of minorities in the micro-credit schemes of NABARD should be laid down. This policy should spell out the intervention required by NABARD through a mix of target and incentive schemes based on the population percentage of Muslims in the village in order to enhance the participation of Muslims in micro-credit.
26. Given the precarious conditions of the self-employed persons in the informal sector, especially the home-based workers, a social security system for such workers may be introduced. An early implementation would benefit a large section of the Muslim population along with helping the larger segment of the informal sector workforce.
27. Representation of Muslims on the Boards of Directors of the public financial institutions, insurance companies and public sector undertakings is poor. The members of the board of directors not only determine policies but also implement the programmes of the Government for betterment of all sections of our people. They also make recruitment of the officials at the middle and higher levels. A policy should therefore, be adopted to nominate adequate number of Directors and senior personnel in these institutions from the Muslim community so as to give them a sense of belonging.
28. The central and state government may issue guidelines/directions to the concerned authorities for allocation of due shares from municipal and urban development resources to Muslim mohallas and wards, expeditious regularization of Muslim colonies and rehabilitation of those displaced in slum clearance operations.
29. Prime ministerâ€™s new 15 point programme covers all religious minorities. The Muslims are 13.4% of the total population, constituting 69% among the minorities. It is therefore recommended that the 69% funds in the programme be earmarked for Muslims.
30. The Muslim minority forms about 14% of the total population of India and in absolute terms there are over 15 crores of Muslims which makes India the second largest Muslim population in the world. Such a sizable section of the population deserves special attention to ensure that they are not denied fruits of development social justice and fundamental rights. Therefore, there should be a Ministry at the central government and Department at the state government level exclusively to deal with Muslim Affairs. The recent improvement made by setting up the Ministry of Minority Affairs should be further improved by setting up a Ministry of Muslim Affairs as the problems of Muslims in terms of economic, social and legal aspects are different from those being faced by other religious minorities such as Christians, Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs. It should be the nodal ministry for overall policy, planning and coordination of programmes of development for the Muslims. However, sectoral programmes and schemes pertaining to development of Muslims, policy, planning, monitoring, evaluation etc as also their coordination will be the responsibility concerned ministry/departments. Each Ministry/Departments should also be the nodal ministry/department concerning its sector. The ministry of Muslim Affairs, however, should support efforts of the line ministry/departments for focused implementation in various areas.
31. Formation of a Ministry of Muslim Affairs at the centre should facilitate setting up of a separate Parliamentary Standing Committee and a Consultative Committee of Members of Parliament attached to the Ministry of Muslim Affairs to enable the Members of Parliament to regularly review the progress made by the ministry in implementing the mandate given to it.
32. Each Ministry/department should ear mark outlays for programme specific to the Muslims and for any reason, the allocated funds remain unutilized, such unutilized portion of the funds should not be surrendered and such funds should be passed on to the specific Ministry/Department suggested for the development of the Muslim community with view to formulating and implementing comprehensive programmes for the economic, employment and educational development of the community.
33. Although there are many Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) and Central Plan Schemes (CPS) available for the welfare of SCs, STs and OBCs, such schemes for the welfare of Muslims are rare. Even the available schemes are inadequately funded. The government must formulate a sub plan/special component plan for the Muslim community on the lines of the tribal sub-plan/special component plan for SCs and allocation from the budget should be made for the said plan through special component assistants programme. There has to be a specific budgetary allocation in all development schemes for Muslims proportionate to their population at the all-Indian level.
34. The central and state governments may provide financial and other support to initiatives built around occupations where Muslims are concentrated and that have growth potential. These initiatives can take the form of interventions where existing skills of the workers are combined with knowledge of new technology, and emerging market needs.
35. Special schemes to ensure housing for poorer sections of the Muslim community may be ensured. Special schemes may also be formulated for allotment of shops, PDS, Petrol pumps and gas agencies for Muslim Youth.
36. The central and state government may facilitate a comprehensive survey of Waqf properties and grant public premises status to public waqfs. Waqfs properties may be exempted from rent control and land ceiling laws. Legislation may be made for utilization of surplus income from wakf for education of Muslim students.
37. All the above mentioned genuine demands have arisen as a natural corollary or response of the Muslim community to the findings of the Sachar Committee. The widespread perception of discrimination among the Muslim community needs to be addressed. Denying the existence of discrimination and prejudice against the community and their present social and economic exclusion will not only worsen the condition of the community, but will also threaten the emergence of a composite and cohesive Indian society with all its natural diversity. When this unity does not happen naturally, it has to be made to happen through government intervention including legislation. It is the job of the government to remove this discrimination. Since the central government had taken the initiative to appoint the Sachar Committee, the community hopes and believe that central government will also take the lead and initiative in taking appropriate action on the lines indicated in this document. The community also believes that both central and state governments will take parallel action to create the necessary political will to operationalize a affirmative action programme. The community also resolves to extend constructive cooperation and support to central and state governments and other sections and groups in making the proposed affirmative action aimed at promoting Muslim empowerment and arresting Muslim exclusion, a great success. No nation can aspire to greatness when large sections of its population are excluded from the benefits of national achievement and progress. It is the obligation of the State to ensure that the fruits of our national achievement are shared in equal measure by all communities of India, particularly those excluded and deprived such as the Muslims.
For more details on the Kochi Declaration, contact V.A.M.Ashrof of the Fourm for faith and Fraternity, Kochi, on email@example.com The Declaration was passed at the conclusion of the two-day South Indian Muslim Convention held at Kochi on 16th and 17th June, 2007.