Neena Vyas, 1 Dec 2006
They have been denied benefits of reservation
NEW DELHI: The Sachar Committee report has suggested that it will be "most appropriate" to absorb the lowest category `arzal' Muslims, suffering maximum social deprivations, among the Scheduled Castes by amending the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order of 1950 that has kept Muslim and Christian converts from among the Hindu Dalits out of its purview, denying them any benefits of reservations.
"It would be most appropriate if they [the lowest Muslims groups known as `arzals' mostly working as butchers, washermen, barbers and scavengers] are absorbed in the Scheduled Caste list, or at least in a separate category, Most Backward Classes, carved out of the Other Backward Classes," the report has argued.
It points out that the Constitution (SC) order of 1950 has its origin in the Imperial (SC) order of 1936 that has rejected the SC status to Christians and Muslims. The report asserts that some Muslim communities known as `arzals' are converts from "untouchables" among the Hindus and "change in religion did not bring about any change in their social or economic status."
Instead of getting the benefits given to the SCs, the `arzals' were clubbed with Muslim `ajlafs' (meaning degraded or unholy social groups classified as backward), signifying converts to Islam from low social ranking Hindus. The report notes that sociological studies have affirmed the presence of "descent based social stratification" among Muslims.
Equal to OBCs
The Sachar Committee says that Muslim `ajlafs' are equivalent to OBCs in terms of their deprivation levels, the `arzals' to SCs, and only the Muslim `ashrafs' suffered no social deprivation as they were converts from the Hindu upper castes or had "foreign blood".
The 1950 Constitution (SC) Order was amended twice, once in 1956 to include SCs among Sikhs, and the second time in 1990 to include SC converts to Buddhism, thus practically only Christians and Muslims Dalit converts were denied the benefit of reservations for SCs.
In fact, the Sachar panel report goes on to argue that some see the Order to be inconsistent with the Constitution that guarantees equality of opportunity and protects citizens from discrimination by the State on grounds of religion, caste or creed.
Although Scheduled Tribes of all religions qualify for reservations, the Sachar Committee noted that only 0.25 per cent of the total ST population in the country is Muslim.
The report discusses the various "models" for affirmative action already working in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. The report says that it will be "logical" to suggest that the three different Muslim groups require different types of affirmative action. The second group, `ajlafs', could be given attention similar to Hindu OBCs while the "cumulatively oppressed" `arzals' need "multifarious measures", including reservation.