Archive for March 23rd, 2009

A People’s Manifesto for the 15th Lok Sabha Polls – By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

March 23, 2009

A People’s Manifesto for the 15th Lok Sabha Polls



By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi


The present UPA government promised to take firm initiatives to address Muslims’ backwardness and insecurity issues in its common minimum program. The much hyped Sachar Committee set up by UPA for evaluating socio-economic conditions of Muslims was not even put to discussion in the Parliament. Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission constituted to recommend constitutional and legal solutions following the Sachar findings was also not tabled in the Parliament.


In about two years since the Sachar report was handed over to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2007, other than some perfunctory paper works like madrasa ‘modernization’ and scholarship schemes for minority students by way of the HRD and Minority Affairs ministries, no practical steps have been taken to bring the findings of the report to fruition. In Bihar, central scholarship meant for Muslims was distributed among Jain students and people responsible for the execution said they were not aware about the specific beneficiaries. In Maharashtra a Muslim cabinet minister responded by saying that he was unaware of the handsome central funds allotted for minorities which lie unutilized till date.


To have a comparative look at the balance sheets of the major political parties with the promises they made four years ago in lengthy manifestos, before one casts one’s vote, must be of key concern for Muslims if they wish to make any impact of their democratic rights in the forthcoming elections. As a community with common issues of equity of opportunity, empowerment and security it has to assess the role of the UPA, NDA or so-called third front in addressing Muslim issues.


The Center for Minorities’ Empowerment (CME) of Hyderabad, Jamat-e Islami Hind (JIH), Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians (MOEMIN) and other Muslim NGOs have outlined issues of interest for Muslims to be dealt with as the community’s agenda in the 15th Lok Sabha elections. Here is the ‘voter’s manifesto’ with inputs from different demands by Muslim organizations. 


The Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission has recommended 15% reservation for minorities and 10% of it should be for Muslims other than by de-linking religion with article 341 of the constitution. The commission has come up with various positive recommendations. The first demand should be its implementation.


The contentious Waqf properties, meant for Muslims’ educational and social upliftment, have been misused by both government and the community. The Waqf issue must be urgently resolved by revising the National Waqf Council Act 1994 on par with endowments act and the Sachar interventions calling for Central Waqf Services. This can be the second demand.


Police reform has been awaited by all concerned citizens of the country for decades and mainstream media has been genuinely discussing the issue. But the calcification at the policy level has made the ruling dispensation consider it political suicide to implement the recommendations made by various commissions about reforms. A transparent system of accountability in the policing and constabulary would deprive the political masters of their age-old myrmidons to do their bidding.  Urgent police reform should be the third demand.


It was proposed to give constitutional status to the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) at the beginning of the UPA regime through the 103rd amendment under section 340 but the UPA repealed the existing NCM Act of 1992 and did not introduce any new law.  Similarly the Minority Educational Institutions Act of 2009 passed in Lok Sabha has quibbled with the specific definition of the word ‘minority’ as anybody in the country is a minority either by religion or on linguistic grounds. The definition of the term minority and the constitutional status of NCM through required amendment should be the fourth demand.


As the government is facing technical difficulties in providing reservation for Muslims, it should provide ‘special budgetary assistance’ to address the backwardness of Muslims as its budget allocation on par with dalits as such assistance is under the charge of the executive. This ‘Special Component Plan’ will be helpful in providing financial assistance to the majority of Muslim youth who are in the unorganized, semi-skilled and self employed sectors. Thus a special budgetary assistance to Muslim minority should be the fifth demand. 


The two draconian laws– NSA and UAPA were undemocratically enacted by the UPA government in a rush without allowing a debate in the legislative houses. These laws have to be revised and the criminal justice system be made accountable to avoid discrimination. This can be the sixth demand for the 15th Lok Sabha polls by Muslims along with common sarak, bijli and pani issues with other Indians.


The smaller and regional political parties may gain political mileage should they widely discuss and debate on the issues during election campaigning and vigorously make all national parties clarify their position on these issues. Democracy is all about equity in empowerment. A single push over the EVM button can bring about historic changes.


Thus, wisely vote for ‘your manifesto’ and decide the political destiny of the candidate of your choice, keeping in mind the pre-poll and post  poll combinations that upset the voter’s trust and honest intentions about those they seek to propel to power.


M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is editor of Eastern Crescent and director of the Mumbai based Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre. He can be contacted at