On the ‘Strategic Agenda for the Empowerment of Minorities’

“Striving tirelessly and persevering endlessly,
like a wave thou flow,
taking the path of self-reliance,
for others to follow…”

Thus said Allama Iqbal in one of his poems. This seems exactly the motto of the ‘Bangalore Friday Forum’ (BFF). As a part of their activity ‘Strategic agenda for the empowerment of minorities,’ was an event organized by them on the 5th of October 2013, at ‘Hotel Monarch’, Brigade road, Bangalore. The hall was packed to its capacity with over 160 people from various intellectual backgrounds thronged to be a part of the audience.

Mr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, the officer on special duty to Sachar committee, and Justice Mohammed Anwer, former judge, high court of Karnataka, were the chief guests of the meeting. It all began with Mr. Mashood Badsha, welcoming the audience and the dignitaries, gave a brief talk about the objective and activities of BFF.

The Bangalore Friday Forum (BFF)

BFF evolved out of an urge to help the Muslim community, by a group of like-minded intellectuals. Their main objective is to mainstream the Muslims within the larger Indian society by contributing towards the nation’s development, and in turn share the benefits to improve the economical, political and educational conditions of Indian Muslims, so as to make them a productive human resource. With this spirit of service for the Ummah, they have successfully analyzed and arrived at the conclusion, listing the issues which require immediate attention:

  • Gain an in depth understanding of the various issues confronting the Muslims.
  • Revisit the problems plaguing Muslims, causing their backwardness.
  • Analyze the cause for the lack of a political presence.

Activities currently undertaken:

  • Involved in advocacy with the government, by persuading it to consider the demands of the Indian Muslims. Particularly in areas relating to education, employment and health.
  • Engaged in creating a platform for dialogue and discussion by conducting seminar and workshops.
  • Encouraging scholars to study specific current policy issues, and publicizing the same to create awareness.
  • Encourage dialogue with other communities and groups.

Zafar Mahmood and Sachar Committee

Introducing Mr. Mahmood, Mr. Abdussalam Puthige, Chief Editor of the Kannada daily, Varta Bharti, said: “Mr. Zafar Mahmood is a prolific writer and a president of NGOs ‘Zakath foundation of India,’ ‘Interfaith Coalition for Peace,’ ‘Iqbal Academy’ and ‘God’s Grace Foundation.’ He was a former bureaucrat and an officer on special duty with the Sachar Committee”.

The Sachar Committee was commissioned by the Prime minister of India Mr. Manmohan sign, to prepare a status report on current social, economic and educational conditions of Muslims in the year 2005. The committee was headed by justice Rajendra sachar and six other prominent religious figures from the Muslim community. The detailed report was submitted in 2006 to the UPA government. But unfortunately no action has been taken so far, to benefit the Muslim community, based on the report. The report also includes a 20-point agenda, which requires an urgent addressing by the government.

As Mr. Mahmood took over, he presented the twenty point agenda proposed to the UPA government for the welfare of Indian Muslim community. He began with the atrocities on the Muzzaffar Nagar Muslims, and urged to withhold elections in Muzzaffar Nagar until all the displaced families come back to their place of residence.

The forthcoming general election of India, scheduled next year, is as much a matter of apprehension to Indian Muslims, as for any other well-wishing Indian. Muslims constitute about 13.4% of Indian population and 73% of all minorities in India. Therefore, they are the dominant minority in the Indian sub-continent.

Some of the demands put forward by the Sachar committee to the UPA government are as follows:

  • Create time-bound fast track courts to try the terror allegations.
  • Provide compensation of Rs. 50 lakh to each person who is judicially acquitted of terror allegations.
  • Make schedule caste definition religion neutral. According to 1950’s presidential order only Hindu sweepers, cleaners, cobblers, barbers, etc come under the group of schedule caste, and are eligible to avail the governmental benefits. Whereas Muslims and Christians who belong to the above mentioned professions were excluded from the benefits. This is an anathema or a hateful thing which disfigures the beauty of the Indian constitution. Furthermore, the concept of caste is not confined to Hindu religion alone. Despite the Islamic prohibitions, it is prevalent among the Muslims as well.
  • De-reserve constituencies with substantial Muslim influence. The report urges the government to appoint the delimitation commission immediately to remove these anomalies, where out of 542 seats in Lok Sabha only 27 seats are occupied by Muslims. When according to the law, Muslims should be given 73 seats in Lok Sabha, as they constitute 13.4% of the total Indian population. Apparently no action has been taken so far about this.
  • Evolve procedure to nominate Muslims in public positions of authority.
  • As Muslims form 73% of all minorities in India, they ought to get 67% of the reservation, made for all minorities.
  • In the national budget planning, a special component plan has to be made for Muslims which provides skill development programs and other economic opportunities.
  • Since Muslims are thoroughly unrepresented in the police force, the scheme of limited competitive examination has to be scraped. This scheme prevents Muslim intake, as less than 1% of Muslims fall into the eligibility pool.
  • Establish Indian Waqf service for efficient management of Waqf affairs. This should be based on the pattern of several states, where senior officers from IAS stream are directly recruited by state to manage Hindu temples and endowments. There are several Muslim charitable endowments and institutions across India which come under the Waqf property, and fall under entry #28 in the concurrent list of the constitution. They can fetch about Rs. 1.2 lakh crore current market value and they bring about Rs. 163 crore current annual income. However, the potential annual income from these properties could be much higher, as per Sachar Committee report it is Rs. 12,000 crore. The government however found the demand un-practicable, and turned it down. Further disenchanting the Indian Muslims.
  • Vacate all the Waqf properties occupied by UPA/ Congress government, as mentioned in the former P.M Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s letter, addressing all the CMs of the states, and restore it to the state Waqf boards.
  • Publicize the Madrasa scheme (SPQEM) in Urdu and other languages. Rs. 50 lakhs are granted every year for publicity, but it has not been utilized for the purpose. This scheme emphasizes teaching math and science subjects apart from religious studies in the Madrasas.
  • Establish equivalence between Madrasa and other education. That is, a degree from the Madrasa should be equivalent to a degree from University Grant Commission (UGC) or National institute of open schooling (NIOS).
  • Give option for interest free finance in the banking sector, as recommended by Planning Commission’s Raghuram Rajan committee on “Financial Sector Reforms”.
  • Central Urdu teachers’ scheme should be implemented in all states.
  • Involve Muslim beneficiary groups in planning and oversight of projects.

It is a now or never situation with the UPA government to implement these demands of the Indian Muslims, as they have very little time on hand.

The event came to an end with the note of thanks from Mr. K. M. Sidhique. The response or feedback from the audience was overwhelming, as Mr. Mahmood’s talk was appreciated for creating awareness among the general public, about their current political status in the country.

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