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Congress Consults Minorities

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Muslim representatives plead for de-reservation of Muslim-dominated seats and setting up of Equal Opportunities Commission.

By Abdul Bari Masoud

After a shocking defeat in the just concluded Assembly elections, the Congress party has taken a cue from the Aam Admi Party’s stupendous success and begun directly interacting with common man in formulating its manifesto for the 2014 General Elections. In this connection, the party held consultations with representatives from various minority communities, including Muslims here on December 23. Interacting with the Muslim representatives, Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi assured that all the concerns of the minority community would be incorporated in the manifesto, particularly with regard to de-reserving Muslim”“dominated constituencies which were reserved for the SCs and STs. Admitting that many problems of the community still remained unresolved, he said the de-reservation of the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats having sizeable Muslim population would be referred to the next Delimitation Commission.
The matter was raised by the president of the Zakat Foundation of India, Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood in the day-long interactive session. In his presentation, Dr. Mahmood said there is an urgent need of dereserving Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies with substantial Muslim population, something even strongly recommended by Sachar Committee, but went unheeded during the decade long tenure of the UPA government. Responding to his question, Rahul said the issue will figure in the Congress manifesto.
Dr. Mahmood also touched upon many issues confronted by the community including establishment of fast track courts to deal with terror allegations, compensation of Rs. 50 lakh to each person who is judicially acquitted of terror allegations, deletion of para 3 from the 1950 definition of Scheduled Caste (which excludes Muslims and Christians from its purview), withdrawal of limited competitive examination scheme for recruitment of additional 1,400 IPS officers, restoration of minority character of the Aligarh Muslim University. He also strongly pleaded for adoption of Alternative Admission Criterion proposed by the Justice Sachar Committee for admission in Universities and Colleges.
Muslim representatives including lawyers, jurists, professionals, executives, ulema and muftis have demanded that the UPA government should set up Equal Opportunities Commission and institute schemes of incentives based on religious diversity before the elections as both recommendations were made by the Sachar Committee. They were critical of the functioning of the government which failed to deliver many a promises it made to minorities in its earlier manifestos. They pointed toward the non-passage of the Anti-Communal Violence Bill despite approval by the cabinet. Mr. H. Abdur Raqeeb, General Secretary of Committee on Islamic Finance stressed the need for opening of windows for interest-free banking.
One of the Muslim leaders participating in the conclave said the exercise won’t bring any reward for the Congress as Muslims have lost an inner urge and enthusiasm to vote for the Party even at the cost of wasting their vote by supporting other parties. “UPA had a full decade to do something worthwhile but it failed miserably”, he opined.
Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Oscar Fernandez also spoke on the occasion. The exercise comes in line with Rahul Gandhi’s call for “opening the doors and windows of politics” for common man in formulating policies and programmes of the government as the party is keen to involve people directly in the manifesto-making process.