Denies that the move is linked to vote bank politics
With the Muslim voters poised to play a crucial role in the coming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Union Minority Affairs and Law and Justice Minister Salman Khursheed reiterated on Saturday that the United Progressive Alliance government had decided to give reservation to the minority community. No time frame was fixed by the Union Minister.
Addressing a national conference on the 150th death anniversary of freedom-fighter Allama Fazle Haq Khairabadi at the Scientific Convention Centre, which was attended by AICC general secretary in charge of U.P. Digvijay Singh, Mr. Khursheed said he had been advised by many to bring in the proposal after the Assembly elections.
“All the legal aspects and every legal point will be looked into and studied before the proposal is finalised. The government wants to bring in a solid proposal,” he said.
The Minister referred to the case in Andhra Pradesh, where the High Court verdict on the proposal to grant reservation to Muslims was stayed by the Supreme Court. He said separate models had been adopted in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
Mr. Khursheed denied that the move was linked to vote bank politics and said the minority community should get an opportunity to progress. He said his Ministry favoured the setting up of an Equal Opportunity Commission.
“The Muslims can be given reservation in jobs and education, but how can they be given reservation in housing schemes, which is why an Equal Opportunity Commission is needed,” he stated.
Among the other sops announced at the conference was the proposal to extend the benefits of the sectoral development programme for the minorities in Uttar Pradesh from the existing 21 districts, where the percentage of Muslim population was 25 per cent of the total population, to 44 districts.
Mr. Khursheed said the increase would be made possible by fixing the Muslim population benchmark at 15 per cent. This would enable cities such as Kanpur and Sultanpur to figure on the list.
He said the UPA government wanted the blocks and villages where the Muslim population was 15 per cent to be also covered under the scheme. “The money, which will also be enhanced, will be used in developing infrastructure and building schools in the areas,” he said. At the national-level, the number of such districts would be increased from 90 to about 140.
The Minister allayed the fears of the minority community regarding the Right to Education Act. Mr. Khursheed said he had discussed the issue with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and amendments in the Act had been approved to ensure there was no interference from the government or the district administration in the working of madrasas and minority institutions. He said the Aligarh Muslim University was a minority institution and “will always be.”
Mr. Digvijay Singh said the government and the Congress were one on the issue of giving reservation to Muslims. On the proposal to name the Port Blair airport after Allama Fazle Haq Khairabadi, who was incarcerated in the Cellular Jail by the British rulers and died in 1861 and was buried there, Mr. Singh said he would discuss it with the Prime Minister.
The conference was addressed by Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari; Imam of Aishbagh Idgah and member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali; Samajwadi Party MP Rashid Masood and Akhtarul Wasi.