March 30, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether scrapping the Muslim quota was the right decision by the Karnataka government. We also look at the Hoysala inscriptions unearthed in Andhra Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Was scrapping the Muslim quota the right decision by the Karnataka government?
Before any election, things kick into high gear. Campaigns and politicians go on the road with rallies and meetings to woo voters. Manifestos are released with all sorts of promises and guarantees. These often become points of contention between parties and politicians.
Karnataka is getting ready for its high-stakes assembly elections, and there’s controversy brewing. On March 25, the BJP-led government in the state scrapped the 4% reservation granted to Muslims under the 2B category in the OBC list. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Home Minister Amit Shah have passionately defended the move. The Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) call the rollback unconstitutional.
The idea of reservations was India’s move to address centuries of exploitation by caste hierarchies. The motivation was simple – after being exploited for so long, how could the exploited classes compete with others who were socially and economically advanced?
Let’s turn back the clock a bit. Before the British Raj, India had many forms of reservation. They varied across the princely kingdoms. General and formal reservations came to the fore as early as 1909. The Raj introduced electoral reservations in the Government of India Act of 1909.
These reservations were more political, like electoral seats, rather than economical, like employment in state services. Then, in 1932, British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald proposed the Communal Award. Muslims, Sikhs, Anglo-Indians, and Indian Christians would have separate electorates. It was a controversial move.
Gandhi protested it, fearing division on religious lines. BR Ambedkar favoured it. They met halfway – a single Hindu electorate with reserved seats for Dalits.
Post-independence, it was accepted that scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) deserved reservation-based entitlements. The ‘backward class’ was diluted and handed over to the states to handle. State governments ignored them. It was all outlined in the 1979 Mandal Commission.
The reservations for Muslims imposed under the Raj were repealed. SCs and STs had rights enforced by the Centre, while other backward classes (OBCs), which included Muslims, were denied.
Several committees have recognised Muslims in India as a socially backward community. In 2006, the Sachar Committee reported this gap between Muslims and other socio-religious communities (SRCs) in India. It argued that the literacy and employment rates of Muslims are much lower than other SRCs and that the conditions of general-category Muslims were worse than the Hindu OBCs. Clearly, historical entitlements are amiss.
Coming to Karnataka, the quota for Muslims in employment and education was introduced in 1994 by the HD Deve Gowda-led JD(S) government. They created the “2B” category for Muslims. But the wheels of this development had begun churning back in 1918 when Maharaja Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar formed a committee to study the possibility of reservations. It consisted of representatives from Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Muslims, and backward classes.
Over the years, political analysts have hailed the Karnataka model for bridging socioeconomic disparities across castes and religions. Per the 2011-12 Human Development Survey, the Muslims’ per capita mean income was 74% of the Hindus in Karnataka. In comparison, it was 31% in Haryana and 62% in Gujarat. In Karnataka, Muslim graduates formed 2.8% of the population, while it was just 1.6% in Gujarat.
Recently, the 4% reservation, a decades-old quota for Muslims, was scrapped and equally distributed among the Veerashaiva-Lingayats and Vokkaligas. The incumbent Bommai-led state government decided to exclude Muslims from the OBC category.
VIEW: It’s purely political
The rollback of the reservation has been understandably controversial and divisive. After being removed from the OBC category, Muslims now have to claim reservations under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota. The Karnataka government hasn’t promised any demarcated percentage for Muslims under the EWS quota. The move reneges on the political trajectory of the state.
Muslims were categorised as a backward class not based on their religion but on their backwardness. By removing them from the OBC category, can the state prove whether large sections of Muslims are no longer backward classes? Muslims were categorised as a backward community in Karnataka by several state commissions – from the Miller panel in 1918 and the O Chinnappa Reddy commission in the 1990s.
For many, the move is nothing more than political. The BJP doesn’t see Muslims as a reliable voting bloc for them. Under CM Basavaraj, the BJP has been plagued by corruption allegations and ineffective leadership. Playing on communal lines can change that narrative or at least make it disappear until election day. In tandem, the Lingayats and Vokkaligas are powerful groups whose support is essential for the BJP to retain power.
COUNTERVIEW: For the community’s betterment
The Bommai government’s argument is the same one it used against the 4.5% sub-quota the Centre carved out in 2011 – there’s no provision under the Constitution for the reservation to religious minorities. Bommai cited BR Amberdkar’s assertion that reservations were meant only for castes. The state government sees this as a proactive decision. As Bommai put it, sooner or later, someone might challenge reservations for religious minorities, so the government decided to act.
By going to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category, Bommai argued Muslims now go from 4% to the 10% pool without any changes. Per the BJP, the state government hasn’t done anything drastic. The extremely backward communities that form sub-sects of Muslims like Pinjara and Nadaf in Category 1 will remain undisturbed. The government has also not changed anything for Muslims under Category 2A.
There’s another point for the state government’s move. Previously, the Andhra Pradesh High Court rejected the Centre’s 4.5% minority sub-quota in 2012. The court stated reservations couldn’t be based on purely religious grounds. The court saw the government’s move at the time as irrational, with no data to justify it. It was the fourth time the court struck down the minority sub-quota. The court said it was wholly unconstitutional.
- Amid Karnataka Row, Understanding Reservation for Muslims in India – News18
- Muslim reservation in India: Before and after 1947 – Siasat Daily
- The Muslim OBCs And Affirmative Action – Outlook
- The Karnataka Model – The Indian Express
- A century of reservation: Leveller now political tool – TOI
- Summary of Sachar Committee Report – PRS
- Karnataka scraps separate reservation for Muslims; increases quota for Vokkaligas, Lingayats instead – The Leaflet
- Karnataka Muslim quota row: BJP’s game-changer or a mere poll gimmick? – India Today
- ‘BJP’s Anti-Muslim Policy’: Karnataka Leaders Condemn 2B Reservation Rollback – The Quint
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Karnataka government’s decision to scrap the Muslim quota was right.
b) The Karnataka government’s decision to scrap the Muslim quota was wrong.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
A writer from Mizoram says: Acceptance can do a lot for national unity
For the Left:
Modi can play ugly, but would he really make fading Rahul Gandhi a martyr for democracy
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
100K tourists visit Asia’s largest Tulip Garden (Jammu and Kashmir) – In the first week of its operation, over 100,000 people toured Srinagar’s biggest Tulip Garden. This year, over 15 million tulips of 68 types were planted in the park, which is located between Dal Lake and the Zabarwan hills. During the spring season, the Tulip Garden remains one of the Valley’s most popular sights.
Why it matters: Around 500 gardeners and staff members laboured day and night to get the park ready for visitors. It takes these gardeners about six months to prepare the garden, and extensive preparation is done much earlier before the garden’s inauguration. Tourists were seen dancing and appreciating the gorgeous garden, which they said was better than many floral gardens around the globe.
Hosalaya inscriptions unearthed at Hemavati (Andhra Pradesh) – On Tuesday, historian and scholar Maina Swamy discovered a Hoysala gift inscription from the Nolamba Pallava empire at the Malleswara Swamy shrine in Henjeru (Hemavati), the ancient city of the Nolamba Pallavas. The scholar claimed to have discovered the inscription pillar that was blocking the path to Malleswara Swamy’s shrine in Hemavati. He also stated that the Hemavati-Hoysala writing is not included in South Indian Inscriptions Volume 9.
Why it matters: After the Chola monarchs conquered Nolamba Wadi, the Nolambas became vassals of the Chalukyas. Nolamba Wadi was then absorbed into the Hoysala realm. The Dwara Samudram empire was centred on Nolamba Wadi (32,000), Ganga Wadi (96,000), and Kampili. Maina Swamy urged the Archaeological Department of India to publish a reference or catalogue of the inscriptions in Hemavati and make it available to tourists. This is the third discovery of inscriptions in Andhra Pradesh in the last two weeks.
Climate change may cause great havoc for WB (West Bengal) – Although West Bengal is renowned for its abundant biodiversity, climate change is anticipated to result in the extinction of many species, according to Dr Anjal Prakash, study head at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business. His findings are based on his study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s sixth assessment report, of which Prakash is a co-author.
Why it matters: West Bengal has a lengthy shoreline, and increasing water levels caused by climate change may cause coastal erosion. This could have serious consequences for coastal towns, as well as infrastructure and industry. He also believes that because West Bengal is so reliant on rainfall, shifts in precipitation trends caused by climate change could contribute to water shortages. Apart from the report of Prakash, there have been other studies that have raised an alert that some parts of the city of Kolkata may get submerged in the Bay of Bengal by 2035.
Traditional shack builders fear losing tender (Goa) – The Goa tourist department’s attempt to purportedly enhance the design and facilities of shacks put up along Goa beaches has alarmed traditional stakeholders. They think the move is intended to displace the community from the business that has been the purview of the initial residents of the coastal towns, mainly the fishing communities that have been erecting shacks since the 1970s.
Why it matters: State tourism minister Rohan Khaunte, on the other hand, stated that the state government will consult with all tourist stakeholders before developing any strategy for the state. The stakeholders are afraid that they will end up losing all tenders to the government.
Hybrid Gamosa offends individuals in Assam (Assam) – The Assam Bangla Sahitya Sabha (BSSA) honoured visitors at an event on Sunday with “hybrid gamosas” fashioned of Assamese gamosas and Bengali gamchhas sliced in half and sewn together. Following a backlash in the state, the organisation released an apology on Tuesday. The BSSA is a freshly established literary and cultural organisation that aims to serve as a “meeting point for Assamese Bengalis.”
Why it matters: BSSA president and novelist Khagen Chandra Das, as well as general assistant Prasanta Chakraborty, who teaches Bengali at Guwahati’s prestigious Cotton College, apologised. They had adapted this idea from a similar gamosa used by another Silchar organisation to greet guests at an event a year and a half ago. According to one person, this is an affront to the Assamese Gamosa.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
60 – Mumbai’s BMC is planning to install 60 automated weather monitors.