Students Organisations Demand Restoration of OBC Muslims Reservations

After Hijab row and scrapping of fellowships and scholarships for Muslim students, the government is actively closing the doors of education for Muslim community

reservations

On  24th March 2023, the cabinet of ministers of Karnataka state arbitrarily and in absolute haste scrapped the reservations that were provided for the Muslim community under the head 2B of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. Instead, they have been moved to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota. The 4% share in reservations that were released by the scrapping of the 2B Category of Other Backward Classes has been shared equally amongst the two dominant communities of the state – the Lingayat and Vokkaligas – each of them allotted an additional 2% share in reservations.

The order goes to make two major claims as the reasons for the scrapping of the reservations under the 2B category. Evoking the judgement in the case of T. Muralidhar and Others v. State of Andhra Pradesh, it states that the 7 judges’ bench in its order dated 8.02.2010 ruled that the reservations provided in Andhra Pradesh Reservation was unsustainable and in violation of Articles 14, 15(1) and 16(2) and that an appeal against the said order was pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Union Home Minister who has been making frequent visits to the poll-bound state of Karnataka was speaking at the India Rising Summit where he said, “I agree, we got a bit late doing it (scrapping reservation for Muslims). Reservation on the basis of religion is illegal and it is not in the constitution. There cannot be any reservation based on religion. Congress did it for polarisation and we corrected it” thereby spreading misinformation amongst citizenry that the reservations provided to Muslims was based on religion.

However, it must be noted that in the case of Andhra Pradesh the reservations provided to Muslim community was struck down by the judiciary on the grounds of procedural impropriety, improper information and the possibility of increased conversions. The  case of Karnataka has been very different. Reservations provided to the Muslim community in Karnataka is on the basis of their socio-economic and educational backwardness.

The order goes further to note that “Whereas at the time 2B category was created and the members of Muslim Community were included/classified as Backward Classes for the purpose of reservation, there was neither any recommendation by any body, nor was there any empirical data nor any materials for granting them the said status. Whereas the members of the Minority community have adequate protection under the Constitution for establishment and administration of Minority Institution/Students. Whereas the Government has taken into consideration the above amongst other factors”.

However, the order’s claim that the Muslim community was provided reservations under the 2B category without being recommended by anybody or in the absence of empirical data is a blatant lie that has found a place not just in the rhetorical narratives of the Sangh Parivar and the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders as was the case of CM Basavaraja Bommai’s statement on the issue but also in a Government Order!

On one end, the order clearly overlooks Para 6 of the GO it cites as a reference!  The said paragraph reads as “Now the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes have submitted special report and 71 advices vide their letter dated 04-12-2000 read at Sl. No. 4 above. Pending consideration of the entire report, the Government have examined in detail the Creamy Layer Policy contained in the Special Report and 71 Advices, relating to inclusions, deletions, correction of spellings etc. and have made the following orders” there by clearly establishing that the reservation were provided on the basis of recommendations made by the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes.

On the other end it also disregards the over-a-century long history of affirmative actions in Karnataka. The reservations provided to the Muslim community dates back to the pre-independent times wherein the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV fondly known as Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar amongst the people of Karnataka implemented it based on the recommendations made by the Justice Miller Committee in 1918 which continued to be in place until Independence. In the post-independence era, all the Karnataka’s Backward Classes Commissions with only the LG Havanur Commission being the exception have, after considering various parameters recommended that a majority of the Muslim community be provided reservations on grounds of socio-economic and educational backwardness. This was later also affirmed by the Sachar committee report.

In fact, the order in question violates the principles laid out by the Supreme Court in the Indira Swahney case which stated that any changes to be made to the categories that have the rights of reservation must be based on empirical data-based study.

The government order that the Muslim community can avail reservations under the EWS quota is nothing but a mockery of social justice! The socio-economically and educationally backward Muslim communities in Karnataka are now expected to compete with the more better off communities under the EWS quota thereby killing the very idea of social justice where the other dominant communities placed alongside the Muslims are expected to corner the provisions of reservations.

It must also be noted that Karnataka is the first state in India to implement the National Education Policy 2020. The NEP is a nexus of neoliberal model of privatisation and Hindutva as is very evident from its promotion of public-philanthropic-partnership model and ‘Sanskrit knowledge systems’ coupled with Bramhinical ideals like ‘dharma’, ‘karma’, ‘swachchhata’ that form the ideological basis of the caste system. The document has nowhere used the word ‘reservation’, implying that the New India under Modi doesn’t care about social justice policies in education sector as well. In this backdrop, the move comes forth as a very toxic mix of casteism and communalism.

However, it is clear that the BJP government, fearing that they will be voted out of power in the only South Indian state they have gained some ground at, has used reservations as a tool at their disposal to be able to please and garner votes from certain sections of the electorate. This is evident when we understand that all the changes with respect to reservations – be it the case of SC/ST reservations, Internal reservations and OBC reservations have been introduced in the last three months (since December 2022) in the run-up to Karnataka Assembly Elections 2023 after sitting on people’s demands over the last 3 years.

As students’ organisations, we understand this as yet another attack by the ruling BJP regime on the rights of minorities, more so the educational rights of Muslims. After closing the gates of education to Muslim women students in the garb of Hijab and the scrapping of Maulana Azad National Fellowships and the Minority Scholarships of the PhD Scholars, by scrapping the reservations, the ruling regime is determined to deny educational opportunity to the Muslim community.

It is in this regard, that all pro-people students’ organisations demand the BJP Government to take back its order. Else, the changes brought in by the BJP government with scant regard to social justice and history of Karnataka shall mark the beginning of end of BJP in the only Southern state it has a footing!

As students’ organisations that uphold Preambular values of Socio-Economic and Political Justice and the constitutional values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity; we understand that the ploy employed by the BJP government in this case to incite communal conflicts in the garb of reservations in the run-up to elections. However, people of Karnataka and students in particular shall rise above such petty communal ploy.

Students’ organizations hereby resolve to work with all communities in our quest to uphold the Right to affirmative action and thereby ensure that social justice is served to not just the Muslim community but to every person of Karnataka!

Participant organisations: AISA, ASA, Bangalore University Students’ Union, Collective, DVP, GIO, KVS, PARIVARTHANA & SIO

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