Wednesday, October 20, 2010



IN the recent past, there has been lot of discussion regarding the socio economic conditions of the Indian minorities and their development. This is a welcome shift as the discussions will definitely determine the positive role of the State, society and the individual in the coming days. Moreover, we will be able to know the minorities better. Greater information about the daily livelihood, the struggles, sorrows, ecstasy can be gathered by us. The intensity with which the society will open up, the eagerness with which it will express, the due prestige it will usher, will surely help in cementing the democratic roots. Therefore, a liberal social approach and understanding can be developed towards the issues of minority development and their social status. It’s not a question of the minorities benefitting alone but the society as a whole will reap the harvest. Two pre-conceived notions will also cease to exist. The sense of being deprived within the minorities and the notion of the majorities to be at the helm of all affairs will die a gradual death. These discussions are very essential and the ongoing process is the reason for us being optimistic about this.


One more thing needs to be clarified at the outset. Who will be fighting for the development of the minorities? Is this a battle for equal rights that has to be waged by the minorities alone or is it a war wherein the entire cross section of the society needs to participate. The CPI(M) believes that the challenge of minority development is an integral issue of the entire democratic mass movement. A partial outlook cannot ensure the development of a state or of a particular area. One of the basic tasks awaiting our party is to change the correlation of class forces. The natural allies of the Left are scattered in different parts of the country. Being poor and deprived for long, the majority of the minorities have been the traditional supporters of the Left. However, there has been recently a shift in support base. This support has to be won back through protracted class struggles and by giving special emphasis on the developmental question. This fight has to be an integral part of the class struggle. The problems faced by the dalits, minorities and women are to specially emphasised. Otherwise, the society will be facing a hard division which will be hampering the class struggle in the long run, and the Left by any chance cannot let this happen. From this point of view and commitment the question of minority development is to be addressed.

Some facts and data are well known but still we mention them here once more to record that West Bengal is among the four states in India which has a high percentage of Muslim population. According to 2001 census, a total of 2.31 crore Muslims reside in West Bengal. But already there is a change in that number and the census of 2011 would confirm that. Overall, there is an estimate that one fourth of the entire Bengal population comprise Muslim minorities. They constitute 96 per cent of the total minority population in the state. In 12 districts of the state, Muslims constitute 25 per cent of the total population. In the three districts – Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur – the Muslims constitute more than 50 per cent of the total population. The majority of these Muslims speak Bengali. The few Urdu-speaking Muslims mainly reside at three places namely Kolkata, Asansol and Islampur.

A large section of the Muslim minorities in West Bengal have remained socially, economically and educationally backward. Several steps are necessary to eradicate the backwardness of these sections, namely legal measures, government policy decisions and the flourishing of mass movement. Otherwise, there will be no change in situation. The three decades of the Left Front rule in West Bengal have witnessed various government policies giving economic assistance and prestige to the poor. Since a major number of the poor people belong to Muslim community so the Left front government has played its natural role while deciding on minorities' development. The Muslims in general are poorer and it is not at all unnatural that the Left Front government had taken decisions in their favour. Theoretical debates continue over the reasons behind the backwardness of the Muslims and the trend is going to continue in coming days. Not going into the details of those discussions, I need to throw light upon some essential matters.


There cannot be any doubt that the partition played havoc upon the Muslim community in our state. Lakhs of Muslims crossed the border with the belief that “this is not my country”. They left back everything. Their abode, belongings, dreams, hopes, sorrows, joy everything was left back as they left their land amidst the campaign of why they will remain in India despite of Pakistan being created. Echoes of such campaign were there in the air in the then rural Bengal. A section of the middle class left in the hope of availing better facilities. The main motive behind the exit of that educated enlighted middle class was the availability of government jobs in the newly established Muslim state of Pakistan.

Beneficiaries of Patta/Barga under Land Reforms

Sl. No.
Total no. of beneficiaries
Minority Beneficiaries
% of Minorities
Land Acquisition (H.S. Land)

Loans from Banks to minorities

September, 2008
March, 2009
March, 2010
51560 crores
60048 crores
7486 crores
8864 crores

The primary stigma of the partition was cured with a huge ‘exchange’ of Muslims beyond the frontier, and the migration continued. The number was increasing radically. Riots, insecurity, and the absence of equal opportunity here had not left any option open except to cross the border. That was the time when most of the densely Muslim populated areas in West Bengal were affected by religious riots for small and petty reasons. Even incidents like the procession of Hindu idols, passing through the road in front of a mosque or distribution of the meat after qurbani, evoked confrontation between the two religions. However, it can be noted that these confrontations were always not caused by pure social reasons but sometime just for the shuffling of the religious trump cards by the political parties. That was the time when Congress was the ruling party in West Bengal as well at the centre. Many of the Congress leaders and workers were found to be associated with these communal riots in a direct or indirect fashion. The Left always stood firmly against such attempts to create communal riots, sometimes even at the cost of their supporters and activists getting killed in the process. Though the Left did not have that much mass base during that time, it used that limited force to tackle the disturbances, to regain the self-confidence and self-reliance of the people. It is another matter that this glorious role of the Left had also consolidated the mass base in due course. The minorities have always considered the leftists to be their friends. In 1964, a huge communal riot took place in and around Kolkata. The minorities were attacked significantly. The riot did not spread to the nook and corner of the state geographically but it ensued ripples of insecurity among the general mass of minorities. The terrorised population started to cross the borders in large numbers. The tiny middle class of Muslims left in Bengal gradually vacated the state for their new abode. Recently, a research work 'The Spoils of Partition' by historian Jaya Chatterjee has shown how the Muslims crossed borders at that time. Boys and girls belonging to Muslim families left school and colleges in a dangerous social environment of misbelief and confusion. The then administration was not in a mood to tackle the problems which had by and large increased the mental tension of the entire Muslim cross section of the population. Political efforts in this regard were never taken up. The Congress governments both at centre and the state kept their silence in this regard while the police administration made the situation more complex by indulging in partial activities. So, the natural corollary was there - the Muslims left the country.


The people who stayed back were mainly poor. Agricultural workers, craftsmen and daily wage workers constituted the bulk. Some upper class Muslim families were there in a very small number in each district but the middle class completely disappeared. The entire mood was akin to that of a deserted defeated soldier. All colours vanished from the life of the community. It will be easy for a social scientist to understand how difficult it was to crave their mode and path of development. Politicians are also social scientists in a way and they also have to understand the problems. At that time majority of the people in Bengal were poor. The majority of the Muslims were associated with agriculture and naturally they were very poor. The word “aakal” (scarcity) was a very common word to be used in the then Bengal. The agrarian production was very less. Food crisis was there. Irrigation facilities were poor. Developed seeds were not available. On top of this, the all powerful money lenders dominated the scene. All poor people were always aprehensive and the Muslims naturally had the lion’s share of the fear too. With poverty of this sort prevailing, thinking of having proper education was a matter of day dreaming. Wards were sent to work at other places not for money but at the cost of ensuring one square meal for them. Does social development happen in such conditions? The first priority was to feed the people. In various districts, documents explaining the socio-economic conditions are being published. We may look at the presence of the Muslims in the field of education after 1947. Let us furnish one example. Recently the celebrated Krishnanath College had its 150 years celebration. During the centenary and also now special numbers to commemorate the anniversary have been published. The lists of students yearwise have been furnished. The number of Muslim students is almost microscopic. If such is the condition in a Muslim dominated district of Murshidabad, it can be well understood what the situation in other parts of the state is.

(B) Total number of madrasahs in Bengal

High Madrsash
Sr. Madrasah

Junior High
Alim (10 standard)
Fazil (10+2 standard)
Madrasah running with vocational courses
Total no. of madrasahs
(A)Total students – more than 4 lakhs
(B) Total post of teaching & non-teaching staff newly created 9662 .
(C) Total Urdu Medium Madrasah –17
(D) Total Girls Madrasahs - 39

Madrasah Service Commission (Founded in 2008)
Teachers recruited by the Commission:
Total: 990 in the year 2007
Total: 1750 (1655 Assistant Teachers, 79 Head Masters and 16 undergraduate teachers in the year 2008)
Total: 1332 (HM- 76, AT- 1236, UG -20)in the year 2009. Grand Total : 4072 candidates. Out of the total candidates 93% are of Minority communities

So, where is the reality behind the campaign of educated Muslim youths being continuously deprived in jobs? It is true that there has been a change in situation now. The change did not take place all of a sudden. There have been long drawn struggles to restore peaceful democratic environment in the state. Both Hindus and Muslims have been an integral part of this struggle. The Left played a glorious role in cementing this bonding and waging a united fight. The working class and the peasantry had also played their role irrespective of religious affiliations. The hard drawn struggles paved the way for the creation of the Left Front government in the state. Innumerable comrades laid down their lives in order to ensure the establishment of the Left Front government. The establishment of the government was welcomed with huge exuberance in the villages and cities of Bengal. When we look back, we can clearly see that eradication of poverty was one of the main agenda of the new government. The minorities were comparatively poorer so naturally their development was prioritised. The same formulation holds true for schedule tribes, schedule castes and adivasis.


The first task undertaken by the Left Front government in West Bengal was to stop violence of all sorts. Along with political violence, the religious violence was also stopped thus helping the minorities to regain their lost confidence. The sense that there is no need to shift to Bangladesh or Pakistan started to gather momentum among them. The belief of India being their own country was strengthened. Government decisions alone were not capable of achieving this. The overall education, the strengthened democratic environment and the urge to safeguard the culture had also been responsible in accelerating this process. Another very important factor was the decentralisation of governance through elections to autonomous bodies. For long, there was no election in the municipalities and the panchayats. Common people were not even aware about the election process. The Left Front government kept its pre-election promise and devloved power to local bodies. Huge number of people participated in the process and naturally a large section of Muslims too became part of the administrative process. This is matter of great significance in independent India. Never have Muslims in such large numbers either contested or got elected in elections. The campaign about Muslims not being part of the mainstream of the society was shattered thus giving the minorities a renewed self confidence.

The government was committed to the mass movement for achieving land reforms. The work began and West Bengal became became the best advertisement of land reforms in our country. Out of the total beneficiaries through land reforms in the country, 54 per cent were from Bengal alone. According to a report published on February 28, 2010 a total of 11.277 lakh acres of land in West Bengal have been distributed through land reforms, which has directly benefited 30.106 lakh farmers, 55 per cent of who belonged to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This percentage will reach upto 75 per cent if we include the minorities benefeciaries. Another outcome of the land reforms was to provide the succession rights to the bargadars (sharecroppers) and record the names of daily wage workers in the fields. Till November 2009, a total of 15.37 lakh names have been recorded as bargadars.The total land amounted to 4.56 lakh acres. Out of the total recorded names, SC benefeciaries were 4.73 lakh, STs were 1.67 lakh and minorities 1.86 lakh. The distribution of the excess lands among the landless people is a regular process practiced by the state government, which has provided the maximum benefit to the downtrodden people of the state, and especially the minorities in huge numbers. Till the end of the year 2009, 4.56 lakh hectares of excess land was distributed among 29.89 lakh people. Among these benefeciaries, 11.03 lakh people belonged to the Scheduled Castes, 5.47 lakh to the Scheduled Tribes and 3.62 lakh to the minority community. (Source: The Economic Survey 2009-2010 and financial budget speech 2010-1011 delivered by the state finance minister)


ALTHOUGH the people of Bengal are well aware about the consistent role of the Left Front government in ensuring the development of the minorities in the state, the recent data available underlines this fact emphatically. In the recent state budget for 2010-11, it was announced in the budget statement: “In the sphere of Madrasah education and development of minority communities, special priority has been accorded to the improvement of vocational and technical education along with the expansion of education and improvement of standards so that the students belonging to the minority communities can have wider opportunities of participation in the production process, employment and income. With this objective, along with upgradation of 112 junior high madrasahs to high madrasahs and 196 high madrasahs to higher madrasahs during the current year, 75 more junior high madrasahs will be upgraded to high madrasahs and 100 high madrasahs to higher madrasahs the next year. Vocational training in 160 high and higher madrasahs is a part of the process of upgradation.

“In the sphere of higher education for Aliah University, stress has once again been given on modern vocational and technical education alongside teaching and research. A new campus for women in the university is being set up. In addition, a proposal has been moved from the state level for increasing the number of beneficiaries of pre-matric scholarship awarded to the students of the minority communities under a joint centre-state programme from 2.44 lakh in the current year to at least 5 lakh in the next year. In this case a special initiative will be taken so that students get this scholarship regularly through bank or post office accounts opened in their names. Honourable members are aware that 12 districts, including Kolkata, are covered under the joint centre-state multipurpose plan for development of minority communities. I am happy to announce that from next year, the state government has decided to implement this multipurpose plan with its own funds in every block in which there is a concentration of minorities in the remaining 7 districts. It is necessary to mention in this context that for the purpose of employment generation and training of minority communities, the West Bengal Minorities Development and Finance Corporation has sanctioned in the year 2009-10, 100 crores as against Rs 63.28 crore benefitting 1.09 lakh persons in the year 2008-09. According to the latest data compiled by the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the Government of India, West Bengal now ranks first in the country in this regard. Having regard to all these overall priorities, I propose to increase the plan outlay of the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasha Education from Rs 121.0 crore in the current year to Rs 300.0 crore in the next year.”

Along with Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians who are regarded as minorities at the national level, even Jains are also recognised as minorities in Bengal. The Left Front government has been striving for the welfare and development of the minorities. For the development of the minority Muslims, there are nine autonomous bodies namely West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation, West Bengal Minority Commission, West Bengal Wakf Board, West Bengal State Haj Committee, West Bengal Urdu Academy, Wakf tribunal, West Bengal Madrasah Education Board, West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission and Alia University. All these are engaged in various welfare and developmental activities.

The main activities that have been undertaken and the projects that have already been planned are as follows-

Hostels for Muslim Girls: Many believe that one of the reasons behind the socio-economic backwardness of the Muslim community is the prevalence of illiteracy among Muslims in general and amongst the Muslim girls in particular. Keeping in mind this very reason, a decision to set up hostels for Muslim girls in remote locations has been planned long back. The plan covers building of more than one hostel in each of the twelve districts. Already ten hostels have been set up. In the financial year 2009-10, two new hostels have been planned. Rupees 50 lakh have been allotted for building of such hostels in the year 2008-09. The allocation has increased and in the year 2009-10 it amounted to Rs 4 crore. A total of 21 girls’ hostels have been planned, this benefiting a large number of Muslim girl students.

Construction of boundaries for graveyards: Boundaries for 102 graveyards have been constructed in the year 2008-09 at the expense of Rs 3.77 crore in order to ensure proper maintenance of the graveyards. The allocation has been increased to Rs 4 crore in the year 2009-10 for this purpose. 16 boundaries have been constructed in 2009-10 and target has been set for construction of 50 more boundaries. Along with the government allocations, funds are also allocated from MP LADS and MLA funds for this purpose and the works are executed by the district administration. The Left Front government is sympathetically considering the demand for setting up another graveyard in the city of Kolkata.

Empowerment of Minority women: The loan scheme for women is a very effective tool in empowering minority women. Divorcees or utterly destitute women who are within the age group of 20-45 years and whose yearly income is up to Rs 45,000 are given loans at 3 per cent per annum.

West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation: Rs 20 crore has been spent in the year 2008-09 by this corporation. Under the fund for rural infrastructure development, Rs 2 crore was allocated for development of minority areas. Of this amount, till date Rs 1.81 crore has been utilised. The corporation, which has been set up in 1996 for the development of minorities in the fields of commerce and industry, provides loans at low interest rates to economically backward minorities. In the year 2008-09, Rs 89.53 crore have been spent in this regard.

Education Loans and Scholarships: The concerned department has been taking consistent steps in this regard. In the year 2008-09, 3336 students have received scholarship. Another 23,238 students received post secondary scholarship (central part) while 6935 got hold of post secondary scholarship (state part). The total number of recipients of pre secondary scholarship have been 64,924.

West Bengal Haj Committee: This committee makes arrangements for the Haj pilgrims from the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. The state government provides financial assistance for meeting the various expenses of the pilgrims. Rs 1.50 crores has already been allotted for the construction of the new Haj building near Kolkata airport. The building has been recently inaugurated by the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. The total expenditure for the construction of this centre will be Rs 5 crore. In the last season, the total number of pilgrims from the state was 7300. The state government and the Haj Committee are working together to make the entire journey of the religious people safe and comfortable.

Waqf Board: The Waqf Board has been vested with more power to discharge its work in more developed and smooth manner. A total amount of Rs 20 crores has been allotted. It has been decided that all waqf property under adverse possession or illegal transfer shall be restored and the income, which will be incurred out of the same property, shall be spent for the welfare of the Muslim community. An amount of Rs 2 crore has been allotted for the board in the year 2009-2010. A total of 8737 properties have already been listed in the waqf schedule. The rent of famous Shaw Wallace Building and the Tollygunge Club building have been increased to Rs 7 lakh per month. The one time earning has reached to Rs 2 crore. Now, the process of computerised documentation of all waqf properties has been commenced.

Urdu Academy: The prime aim of this academy is to propagate and encourage Urdu language and literature. The fundamental works taken by the Academy are educational programmes, announcing scholarships and prizes, printing and publication, running correspondence courses, and providing vocational training. The budget allocation for these purposes for the year 2009-2010 is Rs 2 crore. The Left Front government has decided that if someone writes the letter to the government departments in Urdu, it would be replied to in Urdu only. The government circulars have to be communicated in Urdu in certain places. Many more Urdu medium primary schools will be opened in the Urdu-speaking areas and soon the vacancies of the teachers will be filled in all Urdu schools. Already, Arabic has been included in Bachelors course in many colleges of the state. Now the priority is improvement of the quality of that education by appointment of efficient teachers. The government has already taken the initiative to appoint the efficient teachers.

Board of Madrasah Education: The Madrasah education in West Bengal has a glorious history and tradition. Keeping this in mind, the Left Front government extended autonomy to the Madrasah Board in the year 1994. The syllabus of Madrasah education has been upgraded and modernised with the commencement of the computer courses in 150 Madrasahs and inclusion of technical education in 89 others. The entire education system has been brought under the fold of Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan. The government has planned to build 10 Madrasahs as centre of excellences. A total number of 8 lakh students are getting themselves educated in 576 Madrasahs and 185 Centres for Madrasah Education through out the state. Affiliation has been given to 200 child education centres and 300 centres for higher Madrasah education. It is hoped that soon these institutions will achieve the reorganisation of educational institutions in the academic year 2009-2010. Now, let us look at the unique characteristics of the Madrasahs in West Bengal:

1.With a countable exceptions, almost all Madrasahs in the state have co-educational system, which is indeed very rare in other states.

2. Though the Higher Madrasahs are regulated by the Board of Madrasah Education, they come under the purview of state higher education council.

3. Almost all Madrasahs are having a large number of non-Muslim students.

4. A large number of non-Muslim teachers and non teaching staff are also appointed in the Madrasahs.

5. It can be found that a large number of non-Muslims apply for the examination conducted by the Madrasah Education Commission for the posts of teachers in Madrasahs.

All these characteristics are a reflection of the deep secular roots of tradition, education and culture of the state and they reveal the confidence of the people in the very spirit of secular democracy.

Alia University: The process to establish Alia University has already been initiated, which will gradually become a modern university. The state government has extended all kinds of administrative and financial support to fulfil the dreams of the minority community that have been cherished for a long time. I personally dream of having Al Azahar University in our state in the near future.

[Source: The Economic Development Report 2009-2010 placed in the state assembly recently]


A NATIONWIDE debate has been going on concerning the extent of aid that will be rendered to Muslims through provision of 15 per cent reservation in employment and education. West Bengal is not outside this discussion. In the meantime, in the month of December 2009 Justice Ranganath Mishra's recommendations were placed in the parliament. The main features of the recommendations were as follows:

1.In the matter of criteria for identifying backward classes, there should be absolutely no discrimination whatsoever between the majority community and the minorities; and, therefore, the criteria now applied for this purpose to the majority community – whatever that criteria may be – must be unreservedly applied also to all the minorities.

2. All those classes, sections and groups among the minorities should be treated as backward whose counterparts in the majority community are regarded as backward under the present scheme of things.

3. All those social and vocational groups among the minorities who but for their religious identity would have been covered by the present net of Scheduled Castes should be unquestionably treated as socially backward, irrespective of whether the religion of those other communities recognises the caste system or not.

4. The groups among the minorities whose counterparts in the majority community are at present covered by the net of Scheduled Tribes should also be included in that net; and also, more specifically, members of the minority communities living in any Tribal Area from pre-independence days should be also included irrespective of their ethnic characteristics.

5. As the meaning and scope of Article 30 of the Constitution has become quite uncertain, complicated and diluted due to their varied and sometimes conflicting judicial interpretations, the commission recommend that a comprehensive law should be enacted without delay to detail all aspects of minorities' educational rights under that provision with a view to reinforcing its original dictates in letter and spirit.

6. As by the force of judicial decisions, the minority intake in minority educational institutions has, in the interest of national integration, been restricted to about 50 per cent, thus virtually earmarking the remaining 50 per cent or so for the majority community – the commission strongly recommend that, by the same analogy and for the same purpose, at least 15 per cent seats in all non-minority educational institutions should be earmarked by law for the minorities. The break up within the recommended 15 per cent earmarked seats in institutions shall be 10 per cent for the Muslims.

7. As regards the backward sections among all the minorities, the commission recommend that the concessions now available in terms of lower eligibility criteria for admission and lower rate of fee, now available to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, should be extended also to such sections among the minorities.

8. In respect of the Muslims – who are the largest minority at the national level with a country-wide presence and yet educationally the most backward of the religious communities, the commission recommend that select institutions in the country like the Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Milia Islamia should be legally given a special responsibility to promote education at all levels to Muslim students by taking all possible steps for this purpose. At least one such institution should be selected for this purpose in each of those states and Union Territories which has a substantial Muslim population.

9. In the funds to be distributed by the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation, a suitable portion should be earmarked for the Muslims proportionate to their share in the total minority population. Out of this portion, funds should be provided not only to the existing Muslim institutions but also for setting up new institutions from nursery to the highest level and for technical and vocational education anywhere in India but especially in the Muslim-concentration areas.

10. Anganwadis, Navodaya Vidyalayas and other similar institutions should be opened under their respective schemes especially in each of the Muslim-concentration areas and Muslim families be given suitable incentives to send their children to such institutions.

11. As many minorities groups specialise in certain household and small scale industries, the commission recommended that an effective mechanism should be adopted to work for the development and modernisation of all such industries and for a proper training of artisans and workmen among the minorities – especially among the Muslims among whom such industries, artisans and workmen are in urgent need of developmental assistance.

12. As the largest minority of the country, the Muslims, as also some other minorities have a scant or weak presence in the agrarian sector, the commission recommend that special schemes should be formulated for the promotion and development of agriculture, agri-economy and agricultural trade among them.

13. It recommended that effective ways should be adopted to popularise and promote all the self-employment and income-generating schemes among the minorities and to encourage them to benefit form such schemes.

14. The commission recommend that a 15 per cent share be earmarked for the minorities – with a break-up of 10 per cent for the Muslim (commensurate with their 73 per cent share of the former in the total minority population at the national level) – and 5 per cent for the other minorities in all government schemes like Rural Employment Generation Programme, Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojna, Grameen Rozgar Yojna, etc.

15. Since the minorities – especially the Muslims – are very much under-represented, and sometimes wholly unrepresented, in government employment, the commission recommended that they should be regarded as backward in this respect within the meaning of that term as used in Article 16 (4) of the Constitution – notably without qualifying the word ‘backward’ with the words “socially and educationally” – and that 15 per cent of posts in all cadres and grades under the central and state governments should be earmarked. The break up within the recommended 15 per cent shall be 10 per cent for the Muslims.

16. It recommended that the reservations are to be extended to the Scheduled Tribes, which is a religion-neutral class, should be carefully examined to assess the extent of minority presence in it and remedial measures should be initiated to correct the imbalance if any.

17. The commission recommended that as the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of conscience and religious freedom as a Fundamental Right, once a person has been included in a Scheduled Caste list, a wilful change of religion on his part should not effect adversely his or her Scheduled Caste status.

18. The commission felt that in order to enact the recommendations, there is no need for amending the Constitution. The enactment can be done through parliamentary and administrative orders.

Another significant recommendation of the Ranganath Mishra commission states “We recommend that para 3 of the Constitution (Schedule Castes) order - 1950, which originally restricted it to Sikhs and Buddhists, thus still excluding from its purview the Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis etc, should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely de-link Scheduled Caste status from religion and make the Scheduled Castes also religion-neutral on the lines of STs.

The other major recommendations of the commission are regarding creation of Parliamentary committee; a Task Force at the state level to look into the minority affairs; and a Minority Welfare Committee in minority districts.

If we deeply look into the recommendations we will see that mainly three types of recommendations are there. Firstly, directly reserve 15 per cent for the minorities in education and employment and out of this 10 per cent for the Muslims and the rest 5 per cent for the other minorities. Secondly, if that cannot be done then look into OBC reservations of 22 per cent. Within the OBCs, the minorities are 8.4 per cent. So, out of the 22 per cent OBC reservation, 8.4 per cent can be reserved for the minorities. And out of this, 6 per cent will be for the Muslims and the rest 2.4 per cent for other minorities. Thirdly, the scheduled caste list be made secular. Engaged in the same work reservations will be there for Hindu Scheduled castes and it will not apply for Muslims is a strange phenomenon.


The chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, welcomed the Justice Ranganath Mishra report immediately after it was published. And on 8 February, he announced 10 per cent reservations in government jobs for socially, economically and educationally backward Muslims belonging to the OBC list. At present in West Bengal, 7 per cent reservation exists for the OBCs. That will now be reaching 17 per cent. The families whose annual income is Rs 4.5 lakh or above are to be treated as creamy layer and excluded from the ambit of reservation. At present, the reservation will hold good for jobs only. Whether it will be extended to education or not will be decided later and the mechanism will be worked out then. At present 70 groups are there among the OBCs in Bengal. Some more have appealed to the Backward Development Commission. There are chances of some of them getting incorporated within the list shortly.

The entire process has to go through three stages. Firstly, those Muslim groups are to be identified who can come under the OBC list. Secondly, the creamy layer has to be excluded and thirdly, they have to be given certificates without any problem.

Muslims constitute one-fourth of the total population of the state. Almost 10 per cent Muslims are within the OBC list. Out of the present 70 groups, 13 groups are Muslims. Those in the list are jola (ansari-momin), potidar, kasai, noshya, seikh, paharia-muslim, kujra, sershabadi, hajam, beldar, khetta, sarkar, chaudhuli.

Many more can come in the list namely ‘guri’ people who catch small fishes. Their counterparts among the Hindus are in the Scheduled Caste list. In my own village, a locality was there called Guripara. In this, the Muslims lived by catching fish and selling it. Very recently, I was travelling from Beliaghata to Sealdah in Kolkata and suddenly came across Gurimahal para before getting on the Sealdah bridge. I went down and asked the people in and around there. I came to know that once Muslim Bengali fishermen stayed there. After partition, they caught a train from Sealdah through Banpur upto Moimonsingha in Bangladesh. They never returned only leaving their name which still happens to identify that area. I have seen roads in Baharampore, Murshidabad by the same name.

Very less in number but dhukris still remain. The name itself is strange to hear. Our mothers and grandmothers were fond of stiching “kathas”. The embroidery of the kathas is a very delicate artwork. A similar type of inflated thing called” dhokra” were also made using unused clothings. The makers of this product are called dhukris and they are still found in Murshidabad, Malda and in Amdanga (North 24 Parganas). They also can come in the OBC list. Khalifas are makers of umbrellas. From the Dewansai area in Murshidabad they have spread to different parts of the state and the country. Anyhow, I will not go on furnishing more examples. The groups that can come under OBC list may be like this: mandal, sikdar, majumdar, tatia, kolu, molla, guri, dhukri, pechi, ghoshi, mahaladar, aabdaal, bosni, kankhalifa, behara, dai, sanakar, turki, malo, sabjiwala, mahefras, dhuli etc.

The work of inclusion has picked up pace. People can appeal either through the form available on the commission’s website or on a plain white paper. The commission will have a hearing and thereby decide upon. The commission has the right to call any group and make decisions. It can be said that a large section of Muslim groups will be incorporated in the OBC list once it is finalised.


What are the reasons behind such an announcement of the West Bengal Left Front government? The first consideration is the Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) of the Constitution that speak for such reservations. Secondly, the backwardness of the Muslims is a hard fact that is apparent without the commission’s report also. Hindus and Muslims live together and everybody is well aware about the day to day realities. The much discussed and debated Sachhar Committee report has stated that the socio economic conditions of the Muslims are in a real bad shape and needs to be rectified on an urgent basis. Thirdly, the summary of the Ranganath Mishra recommendations has argued for reservations directly.

Many people ask whether reservations exists for Muslims in other states of the country. The answer is no. Before the Constitution was amended in 1950, there were reservations in states like Travancore, Saurashtra and Mysore, keeping the social considerations in mind. Before the finalisation of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, personalities like Jawharlal Nehru, B R Ambedkar and K M Munshi spoke in favour of cancelling all existing reservations and formulate something afresh. But unanimity was not achieved. At that point of time, framing the Constitution was the most important consideration for the country and it was adopted. And it is precisely for this reason that there are reservations on the basis of religion in some states like Kerala and it is continuing since before independence.

In the states of Tamilnadu, Bihar and Karnataka, within the OBC list another list called MBC (most backward communities) list have been created. In Tamilnadu and Bihar, nearly 95 per cent Muslims have been brought under reservations. It is well known to us that recently the Andhra Pradesh government spoke of 5 per cent reservation for the Muslims, which was turned down by the state High Court. The Supreme Court again has taken somewhat positive stand in this regard. The complete verdict is yet to come and we are looking hopefully to the honourable Supreme Court.
The government at the centre seems to be not in a hurry even after the publication of the Ranganath Mishra report. It has so far not even placed the action taken report. The most important thing now is that the central government needs to speak in a frank manner. Muslim organisations and eminent personalities met recently in Delhi and they have adopted a resolution which states “The participants are convinced that reservation has become a universally accepted device for equalising opportunities in heterogeneous and multi-segmented societies. If equality and justice reach the weaker sections, they are equally convinced that within the democratic framework all deprived and frustrated groups have a right to place their problems before the bar of the nation and receive their share in the national pie.”

Along with this the resolution mentions “the participants pay their tribute to the Sachhar Committee which diagnosed the malice and to the Mishra Commission which has prescribed the panacea and urge the government, the secular parties and the parliament to dispense the remedial measure urgently.” So, everybody is eagerly looking towards the central government though no positive steps have been taken by them in this regard so far.

We need to conclude our discussion here. The development of the minorities in West Bengal is not a stray incident. It has been an integral part of the democratic movement. It is driven from the understanding that we have to take decisions standing on the firm realities. We have to take separate initiatives for the backward Minorities and it will overall strengthen our process of development.

Some speak of minority appeasement. We, as Leftists, believe that the minorities are persons not to be looked down upon and they are a people craving for justice. With this belief, all our works are to be planned. In West Bengal, the Left Front government does not look at the religion of the common man while bringing about changes in their lives. The poor people have been the greatest consideration of the government. Muslims, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are comparatively more poor, so their development needs to be prioritised. And, if for that some people raise the slogan of appeasement, they will definitely be isolated from the people.

Development will be ensured through the path of mass movement. The Left has always believed in the development of common man, independent of caste, creed, religion, language, race etc and will continue to do so. In no way can we be deviated from our ideals.

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