//Blame the British, says Bengal Left

Blame the British, says Bengal Left

TIMES NEWS NETWORK DECEMBER 01, 2006

NEW DELHI: The CPM is seeking to explain away the abysmal status of Muslims in West Bengal as an offshoot of colonial legacy. Blaming the Sachar Committee findings about Muslims in the state on the British, the Partition and subsequent immigration, the Left party admitted that “new initiatives” were needed to change the scenario.

The party quoted figures from an 1871 study titled ‘Our Indian Musalmans’ showing the number of Muslims in government jobs in Bengal province — assistant engineers (three grades): Hindu 14, Muslim 2; sub-engineers and supervisors: Hindu 24, Muslim 1; overseers: Hindu 63, Muslim 2; accounts department: Hindu 50, Muslim 0; registered legal counsel: Hindu 239, Muslim 1 and so on.

“However, there is nothing on record to show any concrete steps were ordered to correct this imbalance. Modern-day Bengal has inherited this legacy,” CPM Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said. The study was conducted when Viceroy Lord Meo asked Sir William Hunter to study the causes of Muslim unrest.

In an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘People’s Democracy’, soon after the Sachar committee report was tabled in Parliament, Mr Yechury cited more reasons for the present condition of Muslims in the Left Front-ruled state. He said the Partition saw the migration of Nawabs, landlords and the wealthy to East Pakistan. “Post-Independence decades compounded the problem by various waves of immigration of Muslim populations. Kolkata continues to attract the poorest of Muslims from neighbouring states in search of livelihood and survival.”

The Sachar Committee report on the education and socio-economic status of Muslims said, in West Bengal, along with Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam the situation is “particularly grave”. West Bengal figures among states that are at the bottom of the ladder in terms of Muslim employment. The share of Muslims in government jobs is 4.2% against a population of 25.2% in the state, expenditure by Muslims is less than that of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, Muslims in judicial services in the state are merely 5% and there are no Muslims in higher positions in state PSUs.

The CPM, which came out with its wishlist for “positive affirmative action” from the UPA government, has demanded 15% of all government plan expenditures be earmarked for improving the welfare of minorities. Mr Yechury said West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has raised the issue with the Planning Commission during his discussions on the 11th Plan. At the state level, the state government has formally decided through a Cabinet resolution to formulate and implement such a sub-plan, he said.

“This is the direction in which we shall have to move at the all-India level. Doing justice to the findings of the Sachar committee means to translate tangible benefits to the Muslim minorities as an obligation demanded of a responsible government in modern India,” the CPM MP said. Mr Yechury asked the UPA not to shirk this responsibility.