//Why West Bengal Muslims are seeing red

Why West Bengal Muslims are seeing red

Sougata Mukhopadhyay, CNN-IBN

Thursday , November 30, 2006

Kolkata: The explosive and contentious Sachar Committee report on the status of Muslims in India is to be tabled in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The seven-member committee headed by justice Rajinder Sachar had submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 17.

The report – that has brought to fore some shocking facts about the deplorable condition of Muslims in India – has already generated much heat and dust and is likely to impact Parliament proceedings as well.

The formation of the Committee itself had created an uproar in Parliament last year after it was reported that the Panel wanted a headcount of Muslims in the defence forces.

As Lok Sabha readies for the report, CNN-IBN did a reality check on the status of Muslims in the job and education sector in the Left-ruled West Bengal and found the situation quite grim.

"When this government came into power, 11 per cent of Muslims had jobs. Now, not even one per cent is employed," says a Bengal citizen, Mohammad Yousuf.

Critics may term this as a frustrated exaggeration. But the fact remains that employability of Muslims in Bengal's government sector remains abysmally low.

The population share of Muslims in the state is about 24 per cent, while only four per cent have government jobs.

And that's only the official figure.

Unofficially, their representation is far less and critics have their own explanation for this disparity.

"Out of 100 Muslims in the state, nine are Urdu-speaking. The state government has taken it for granted that the other section, that is the Bengali-speaking Muslims, whose votes are sure to them, need not be given anything at all," says former Congress MP, Sardar Amjad Ali.

The situation doesn't look good in the state's madrassas too.

Students of the Calcutta Madrasa – the oldest government-owned institution of the continent – are presently on strike.

They allege that the state government has turned a deaf ear to their woes.

"Our Chief Minister visited this college in February this year. He announced that this would become an autonomous degree college. But none of the promises he made were kept," says President, Bengal Madrasa Students Union, Md Masihur Rahaman.

Add to this the exodus of Muslims from the Bengal countryside in search of livelihood and the Sachar panel findings could well open a Pandora's Box.

Given the amount of discontent, which prevails among the Muslims in Bengal, they would be one large chunk of Indians looking forward to the Sachar committee recommendations.

It is clear that even after 30 years of rule, the Left Front government still has an uphill task of pacifying these disgruntled people with concrete remedial measures.

Recommendations of Sachar Panel
Some key highlights of the recommendations are:
bullet Sachar panel finds that madrassa education is not the future. It wants more English and Urdu medium government schools in areas dominated by Muslims.
bullet It also argues in favour of allocating 15 per cent of all Government funds to Muslims under all central schemes.
bullet The panel wants more representation for Muslims in sectors like health and teaching.
bullet It also recommends sensitisation of all government employees towards Muslim requirements.
bullet But the big issue is reservation for Muslims. While Sachar panel avoids any reference to it, its silence is more than eloquent in a chapter on OBCs.
bullet In this chapter, the general non-OBC Muslim is shown to be living in more degraded condition than the Hindu OBC.
bullet Thereby a strong case is made for reservations for the entire Muslim community except the Creamy Layer.