A host of political and religious leaders shared the dais at a public meeting organised by the Popular Front of India at the Ramlila Maidan here on Sunday. They demanded greater representation for Muslims in Parliament and Assemblies, besides reservation in government and private sector jobs. They wanted Muslims and other downtrodden sections of society to join hands in fighting social inequality and injustice.

The meeting was organised to mark the conclusion of the Front's two-day Social Justice Conference.

The former Member of Parliament, Syed Shahabuddin, contended that Muslims could not progress without adequate representation in Parliament and Assemblies.

“The present electoral system is such that the government represents just 15-20 per cent of the total population and is least concerned about the problems and hardships of the common man. It has been reduced to a government of the elite, for the elite and by the elite. This situation can change only with proportional representation for all sections of society. We have tried and tested all political parties, now we demand reservation for Muslims in Parliament and Assemblies,” he said.

Mr. Shahbuddin, who is also the president of the All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarath, said Muslims were against violence and they had to tread the path of peaceful agitation to press for their rights.

Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, Shahi Imam of Shahi Masjid Fathepuri, said: “When Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee and Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission reports have said that Muslims are even more deprived than the Scheduled Castes in the country and recommended reservation for them, there should be no reason for delay. The present regime is not willing to give Muslims their due. The need of the hour is to assert our right. We cannot afford to bear this injustice any longer.”

Samjawadi Party leader Mulayam Singh said that just having the right policy was of little use if the intention was not good. “The intention of the present regime is not good. They have set up committees and the reports are before them, but they are shying away from implementing them. We need to take the path of struggle to seek justice. If Muslims are united and awakened, the government will be forced to accept their demands.”

He said it was his political compulsion to support the United Progressive Alliance government. He was doing so to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party away from power.

Raking up the issue of terrorism, Ajmer Shareef Khadim Syed Chisty said Muslims were not just preaching but practising secularism for ages. “Whenever there is a terror attack, Muslims are blamed for it and our leaders get into defensive mode. We need not be defensive since we are the victims and not the perpetrators.” He exhorted Muslims to introspect and set their own house in order before blaming the government for all their miseries. “A substantial percentage of Muslims children do not go to schools. The drop-out rate is also very high. We must ensure education to our children, it is the key to every problem.”

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