After Marathas, Muslims hit the streets in Maharashtra for quota

In the wake of more than 18 silent rallies organised by the Maratha community across the State, the Muslim community on Friday took out peaceful rallies in Mumbra and Malegaon in Nashik district to demand a five per cent reservation in education and jobs.

Organised with the backing of the Muslim Kranti Morcha, a committee formed last week to spearhead the agitation, the rally from Darul Falah Masjid in Mumbra to Mumbra railway station saw a turnout of over 5,000 people. However, unlike the Maratha rallies where the presence of Maratha political leaders was largely ignored by the community, a significant presence of NCP-affiliated organisations — including the NCP legislator from the Mumbra assembly constituency Jitendra Awhad — was observed at Friday’s rally.

In June 2014, the Congress-NCP government had announced an ordinance granting 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community and five per cent reservation to Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions, taking the total reservations in Maharashtra from 52 per cent to 73 per cent.

In Nov 2014, the Bombay High Court (HC) had stayed the ordinance on the grounds that the reservations were not in conformity with the law laid down by the Supreme Court stating that reservations could not exceed 50 per cent, except in extraordinary situations. However, the HC bench had allowed reservations for Muslims in educational institutions on the grounds that education levels were “abysmally low” in the Muslim community, and that there was a need to draw the community into the mainstream of secular education.

However, against the backdrop of massive rallies by the Maratha community, some estimated to be attended by 20 lakh people, the Muslim community has also tried to revive their demand for five per cent reservation with Friday’s rallies. “The government provides reservation to other communities. We, as Indians, are also entitled to a quota in government jobs and educational institutions,” said Zaeed Sheikh, a 31-year-old graphic designer who participated in the rally.

35-year-old Mainnunisa Pateti said that the Muslim community has demanded reservation time and again, but without a positive outcome, remarking, “There should be some solution to the problems faced by Muslims. Our community is backward and there is high unemployment rate among the young.”

Parveen Kidwai, a 26-year-old football coach, said that the Devendra Fadnavis government had backed reservation for the Maratha community, but did not seem to support reservation for Muslims.

“Our government forgets the rights of Muslims. We aren’t begging for reservations; we are only asking for what is our right. Every time, they tend to leave us out,” he said.

Rehana Sayyed, Mumbra block president of the NCP, demanded that the BJP-led government hasten the process of reservation, saying, “The court has already given us the rights, but it needs a sincere push from the government. Our children are unable to get admissions as we are tired of paying huge amounts in donations to private educational institutions.”

After the rally ended at Mumbra railway station, Mr. Awhad and other leaders from the NCP submitted a memorandum to Thane District Collector Mahendra Kalyankar.

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

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