- Posted January 8, 2014 by
Equal Opportunities Commission -Agent of Disharmony in India
The mischief has its genesis in 2005, when the United Progressive Alliance startled the nation by appointing the Sachar Committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar (retired), with a view to establish the ‘backwardness’ of the Muslim community and link the same to institutional discrimination at social, political and economic levels. The institutional remedy proposed by Rajinder Sachar was the proposed EOC. The Jain community and other groups are being included in the purview of the Commission in order to blunt the edge of the allegation that the EOC is being set up for Muslims only.
The rationale for the EOC rests on communal identity, which violates the basic character of the Indian Constitution. Worse, it seeks to freeze individual identity on the basis of religion alone; thus a minority citizen who believes that he/she is being discriminated against can approach the Commission on feeling that his/her ‘group’ is institutionally discriminated against. The then Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid had vociferously supported the idea of an Equal Opportunity Commission even though the Urdu media had pointed out that the Sachar Committee was unable to explain how the EOC would be different from the National Commission for Minorities.
The principal danger posed by the EOC is that it may promote a covert religion-based reservation in public and private enterprises. It may be recalled that Salman Khurshid had argued for including Muslims under Backward Communities; he favoured pressurising the corporate sector to give reservations to minorities in return for tax rebates. One of the arguments was that there was need for a ‘numerical balance’ between religious communities regardless of qualifications; which means reservation in proportion to population. This means that the police, administrative services, armed forces and public sector may have explained that a particular applicant was rejected on grounds other than religious identity.
The Sachar Committee claimed that Muslims were socially, educationally and economically deprived but could not prove the exclusive nature of Muslim deprivation as opposed to non-Muslim Indians. It specifically failed to establish institutional prejudice on the part of the State. In this connection, a glaring omission on its part was that it neither diagnosed the social-religious factors behind alleged Muslim backwardness, nor did it compare these with the socio-religious situation of Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, or Jains or others who are also regarded as minorities.
This is a serious lacuna that the UPA will have to explain when it justifies adding to the list of religious minorities in India, and including these in the purview of the proposed EOC. How can groups that have excelled in various walks of life by dint of merit and hard work justify approaching the EOC if they lose out in an honest competition? Where is the implied bias against Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and others (that the UPA is imputing) suddenly materialising from? These are questions that the Opposition parties must demand answers to before allowing the UPA to rip the nation’s social fabric apart in its quest to firm up vote-banks prior to the 2014 general election.
Hidden in its voluminous tome (page 239) is an admission of absence of data, ‘there are hardly any empirical studies that establish discrimination (of Muslims). Research in this area needs to be encouraged…’ Despite this, the Committee assumes institutionalised discrimination by presuming public perception of one community: Muslims need to prove on a daily basis that they are not ‘anti-national’ and ‘terrorists’; Muslims complain that they are constantly looked upon with suspicion. It claims that the distinct markers of Muslim identity – burqa, purdah, beard and topi – have been a cause of concern in the public realm; ‘every bearded man is considered an ISI agent.’
If we assume an iota of truth in these proclamations by the Committee, then an Equal Opportunity Commission cannot be the remedy. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that one minority person alleges bias, invokes the EOC and gets appointed in lieu of another protected minority, who then approaches the same EOC… This will make a mockery of the EOC and the employment market.
One may recall Sachar Committee’s divisive agenda was robustly resisted by the Indian Army when it demanded a head count of Muslim recruits. But so committed was Sachar to this poisonous agenda that he tried to pressure the Defense Ministry for the statistics. Only the nationwide furore this generated forced him to back down.
Most pertinent, however, is the fact that the Sachar Committee exceeded its brief by proposing the establishment of an Equal Opportunity Commission as its terms of reference did not warrant the constitution of any organisation for multiple deprived groups; its mandate was exclusively restricted to the condition of Indian Muslims. Now, to justify the EOC, the UPA is commandeering various listed and unlisted minorities into a preconceived paradigm of discrimination on the basis of unproven data about bias against Muslims! This approach of minority versus the rest poses a serious danger to the unity of the nation as it could aggravate minor irritations among groups living in close proximity into entrenched grievances. This is poor politics and shoddy leadership; those pushing the nation into such a quagmire must be removed from office without further ado.