Muslims' Mandalisation causes a stir in RJD
The Times of India News Service: Dipak Mishra
PATNA: The participation of RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav in a function recently organised by Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj--an outfit championing the cause of reservation for backward Muslims, has not only caused a stir in the RJD, but also made it apparent that a move to Mandalise the Muslims was on.
There are reports that a group of Muslim leaders, including RJD ministers, met the other day to vent their reservations over Laloo's participation in the function. "I still stand by my views. All Muslims are Pasmandas (backward) socially and economically," stated energy minister Shakeel Ahmad Khan while denying that there was any meeting of upper caste Muslim leaders. Khan, like a few other Muslim minister friends, has been opposing reservation on caste lines among the minority community. These leaders insist that reservation on caste lines will create fissures in the community and threaten the bargaining capacity of the Muslims with various political parties--particularly the RJD in Bihar. Incidentally, while addressing the meeting of the Mahaj, the RJD chief washed his hand off from the responsibility of earmarking quota for the Muslims, be it en bloc or for sections of it. He stated that it was for the Centre to amend the Constitution to provide for reservation for the community. The fact that the RJD had promised a separate quota for the Muslims in its last election manifesto was conveniently forgotten.
"The party does not want to divide the community on caste lines," stressed the national spokesperson of the party Shivanand Tiwari. However, even RJD leaders are alarmed over the growing clamour for reservation to `Dalit' Muslims. "Finally, the social movement unleashed by the Mandal Commission appears to be catching up with the Muslim community," stated a senior leader of the RJD. The RJD has always propounded the theory of `MY'(Muslim-Yadav) combine as its base vote bank and has reasons to be worried. "A caste divide can only hurt the party," the leader stressed.
The caste syndrome in the Muslim community has increased during the 11 years of Laloo-Rabri regime. After the 1995 assembly polls, when Ghulam Sarwar was denied a second tenure as Speaker of the state legislative assembly, an Urdu paper unleashed a vicious propaganda against Jabir Hussain, belonging to a forward caste among the Muslims, who was then being elevated to the post of chairman of the state legislative council.
Dr Ejaz Ali, son-in-law of Ghulam Sarwar, and his outfit Backward Muslim Morcha have been leading a campaign for reservation for the backward Muslims. They have been pleading that while the Muslims had solidly backed Laloo in electoral battles, it were the upper caste Muslims like the Syeds, Pathans and Maliks who were reaping the benefits in terms of being elected legislators and MPs and being appointed ministers and chairpersons of various boards and corporations.
The Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj, which has been founded by a former journalist Ali Anwar, has also been propagating the same theory. The recent decision of Bihar government to lower the reservation quota of Scheduled Tribes after the state's bifurcation and distribute it among the backward castes and extremely backward castes again saw various Muslim organisations demanding a separate quota for the Muslims. There were bitter exchanges between various minority leaders over whether the quota should be for the entire community or only the backward community.