The 10 percent quota in government jobs for backward Muslims in West Bengal is being welcomed by leaders of the community who say it's not really enough but add that something is better than nothing.
Maulana Abdul Hamid Nomani of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind described the move as a 'step in the right direction' for the welfare of backward Muslims in West Bengal.
'But it is not enough considering the pathetic socio-economic situation of Muslims (in the state). Nonetheless something is better than nothing,' Nomani, the Jamiat spokesperson, told mediapersons.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is one of the leading Islamic organisations in India founded in 1919 with its organisational network spread all over India.
The Communist government in West Bengal Monday announced 10 percent reservation in government jobs for other backward classes among Muslims.
The move comes years after a government appointed committee observed that in West Bengal where 25 percent population is Muslim, their share in government jobs was a paltry 4.2 percent.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on expected lines, has criticised the announcement, saying it was unconstitutional to give reservations on religion lines.
But Nomani differs. He said backward classes among Muslims can be granted the quota on their socio-economic status as it was legally possible.
'We need to invoke article 341 of the Indian constitution,' he said referring to the act that gives the president of India an authority after taking the advice of the governor of any state or union territory, to demarcate tribes, races or castes or a part of any group as Scheduled Castes, in accordance with the law of the constitution.
'We are not demanding quota for all Muslims. Muslims who enjoy a decent life and form a creamy layer don't need it and should be exempted. It should be reserved for those who need it the most,' he said.
Former MP Syed Shahabuddin of the Delhi-based National Movement for Muslim Reservation (NMMR) said it was an 'epoch-making' initiative.
'The NMMR welcomes it and facilitates the West Bengal government. Though more needs to be done but it is better than not being done anything at all,' Shahabuddin said.
The West Bengal government's announcement came on a day when in Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh High Court quashed a state law providing four percent jobs to certain identified backward classes among Muslims.
'That was unexpected. Some fundamentalist parties are opposing it to secure their vote banks. What else does the government need to prove Muslims are under represented and their economic condition is pathetic and much below than the national average,' Nomani said.
Shahabuddin termed the high court ruling as 'unfortunate and deplorable'.
'The judgment quashes the Andhra Pradesh act as being religion-specific and potentially an encouragement to conversion. The reference to conversion shows a streak of Hindutva mentality and is absolutely irrelevant,' he said.
The court, he added, 'has ignored the fact that under Article 15(1) reservation may be religion-specific or caste-specific or race-specific or language-specific if the social group concerned passes the test of backwardness.'