Thursday, July 16, 2009

சச்சார் கமிசன் நோக்கில் இஸ்லாத்தில் ஜாதி


The Muslim OBCs
and Affirmative

3. Muslim OBCs: A Profile

Sociological studies on the social structure of Muslims in India have emphasized
on the presence of descent based social stratification among them. Features of the
Hindu caste system, such as hierarchical ordering of social groups, endogamy and
hereditary occupation have been found to be amply present among the Indian
Muslims as well.
The Census of India, 1901 listed 133 social groups wholly or
partially Muslim.
The present day Muslim Society in India is divided into four
major groups: (i) the Ashrafs who trace their origins to foreign lands such as Arabia,
Persia, Turkistan or Afghanistan, (ii) the upper caste Hindus who converted to
Islam, (iii) the middle caste converts whose occupations are ritually clean, (iv) the
converts from the erstwhile untouchable castes, Bhangi (scavenger), Mehtar
(sweeper), Chamar (tanner), Dom and so on.
These four groups are usually placed into two broad categories, namely, ‘ashraf’
and ‘ajlaf’. The former, meaning noble, includes all Muslims of foreign blood and
converts from higher castes. While ‘ajlaf’ meaning degraded or unholy, embraces
the ritually clean occupational groups and low ranking converts. In Bihar, U.P and
Bengal, Sayyads, Sheikhs, Moghuls and Pathans constitute the ‘ashrafs’. The ‘ajlaf’,
are carpenters, artisans, painters, graziers, tanners, milkmen etc.8 According to the
Census of 1901, the ajlaf category includes ‘the various classes of converts who are
known as Nao Muslim in Bihar and Nasya in North Bengal. It also includes various
functional groups such as that of the Jolaha or weaver, Dhunia or cotton-carder,
Kulu or oil-presser, Kunjra or vegetable-seller, Hajjam or barber, Darzi or tailor, and
the like.The 1901 Census also recorded the presence of a third category calleArzal:
‘It consists of the very lowest castes, such as the Halalkhor, Lalbegi, Abdal,
and Bediya...’
Similar pattern of descent based social stratification is discernible in other regions
as well. In Kerala, the Moplahs of Malabar, are divided into five ranked sections
called the Thangals, Arabis, Malbaris, Pusalars and Ossans.
The Thangals trace
their descent from the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, and are of the highest rank.
Next in rank are the Arabis, who claim descent from the Arab men and local
women and retain their Arab lineage. The Malbaris are next in rank. They have lost
their Arab lineage and follow matrilineal descent. The Pusalars are the converts
from Hindu fishermen called Mukkuvan, the new Muslims. They have low status.
The Ossans are the barbers, and by virtue of their occupation, they rank lowest.
In Andhra Pradesh, a field study conducted in 1987 found hierarchically arranged
endogamous groups among Muslims. At the top of the ladder were those claiming
foreign descent—Syeds, Shaikh, Pathan and Labbai (descendants of Arab traders
who took native wives). At the lowest level were groups with ‘unclean’
occupations-Dudekula (cotton cleaners), Hazam (barbers) and Fakir-budbudki
Muslim groups currently bracketed under the category ‘OBC’ come essentially from
the non-ashraf section of the Muslim population. They are the converts from the
middle and lower caste Hindus and are identified with their traditional occupation. A
study of a village in Uttar Pradesh could identify eighteen such groups, for example,
Julahas (weavers), Mirasis (singers), Darzis (tailors), Halwais (sweetmakers),
manihars (banglemakers) and so on.The 1911 Census listed some 102 caste groups
among Muslims in Uttar pradesh, at least 97 of them came from the non-ashraf
Many such groups such as the Rajputs, Kayasthas, Koeris, Koris, Kumhars,
Kurmis, Malis, Mochis were common among both Hindus and Muslims.
Since the Constitutional (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, popularly known as the
Presidential Order (1950), restricts the SC status only to Hindu groups having
‘unclean’ occupations,14 their non-Hindu equivalents have been bracketed with
the middle caste converts and declared OBC. Thus, the OBCs among Muslims
constitute two broad categories. The halalkhors, helas, lalbegis or bhangis
(scavengers), dhobis (washermen), nais or hajjams (barbers), chiks (butchers),
faqirs (beggars) etc belonging to the ‘Arzals’ are the ‘untouchable converts’ to Islam
that have found their way in the OBC list. The momins or julahas (weavers), darzi
or idiris (tailors), rayeens or kunjaras (vegetable sellers) are Ajlafs or converts from
‘clean’ occupational castes. Thus, one can discern three groups among Muslims:
(1) those without any social disabilities, the ashrafs; (2) those equivalent to Hindu
OBCs, the ajlafs, and (3) those equivalent to Hindu SCs, the arzals. Those who are
referred to as Muslim OBCs combine (2) and (3).

4.1 Kaka Kalelkar Commission (1955) and B. P.Mandal Commission (1980)

The First Backward Classes Commission submitted its report in 1955. The Report
presented a list of 2399 castes and communities considered backward, 837 of
these were considered ‘most backward’ requiring special attention. Thus the
category, backward classes was further bifurcated into two categories-the
backwards and the most backwards. The list included not only backward groups
from amongst the Hindus, but also non-Hindus, including Muslims as well. The
Commission’s Report was the first instance wherein the presence of ‘backward
communities’ among Muslims (and other religious minorities) received
recognition in official parlance. The caste basis did not find approval from the
chairperson of the Commission and one of the reasons cited was the assumed
castelessness of Muslims and Christians: “My eyes were however open to the
dangers of suggesting remedies on the caste basis when I discovered that it is
going to have a most unhealthy effect on the Muslim and Christian sections of
the nation.”

The second All India Backward Classes Commission, the Mandal Commission,
submitted its report in 1980. The Commission evolved eleven indicators, a mix of
caste and class features, for assessing social and educational backwardness. The
Commission saw castes as the ‘building bricks of Hindu social structure’ that despite
the Constitutional commitment to establish a casteless and egalitarian society had
continued to persist. It arrived at an exhaustive list of 3743 castes that were declared
as backward. The Commission, in principle, accepted that occurrence of caste or
caste like feature was not restricted to the Hindu society, its influence was also found
among non-Hindu groups, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, as well. Based on the data
provied by 1931 sinces and fied survey conducted at the instance of the commission,
at least 82 different social groups among Muslims were declared OBCs. The
Commission however desisted from employing ‘caste’ as a criterion to identify non-
Hindu OBCs as ‘these religions are (were) totally egalitarian in their outlook’.The
Commission, however, refrained from invoking ‘poverty’ too as the sole criterion.
The ‘rough and ready’ criteria that the Commission evolved had two conditions:
a. All ‘untouchables’ converted to any non-Hindu religion. In the Muslim case, they
are the arzals.
b. Such occupational communities which are known by their name of their
traditional hereditary occupation and whose Hindu counterparts have been
included in the list of Hindu OBCs. Among Muslims, this comprises the ajlaf
By clubbing the arzals and the ajlafs among Muslims in an all encompassing OBC
category, the Mandal Commission overlooked the disparity in the nature of
deprivations that they faced. Being at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the arzals
are the worst off and need to be handled separately.
It would be most appropriate
if they were absorbed in the SC list, or at least in a separate category, Most
Backward Classes (MBCs) carved out of the OBCs.

5. Muslim OBCs Not Included in the State and Central List of OBCs

Reservations for OBCs has a longer history in the states than at the Centre. As the
recommendations of the Mandal Commission came to be accepted, the Central list
of OBCs, in the initial phase, was prepared by employing the principle of
‘commonality’. Thus, only those castes/communities listed both in the state list
and also in the list prepared by the Mandal Commission were included in the
Central list. It is not surprising therefore that a number of castes/communities that
had either been listed only in the Mandal list or only in the state list were left out.
This discrepancy was expected to be solved once a permanent body, namely, the
National Backward Classes Commission (NCBC) was formed.The NCBC formed
in 1993, has issued a set of guidelines based on social, economic and educational
indicators, for castes/communities to be included in the Central list of OBCs. The
discrepancy between the two lists, Central and State, is still evident. This is a
general complaint and not confined to the Muslims alone. There are many OBC
groups, irrespective of their religion, that are present in the State list but missing in
the Central list. Madhya Pradesh, for instance, has 91 social groups listed as OBCs
in the list recommended by the State Backward Classes Commission, but only 65
such groups have found entry in the Central list. Uttar Pradesh has 79 castes in the
state OBC list, but only 74 in the Central list, in Rajasthan there are 74 castes in the
state list but only 65 have been accorded OBC status in the Central list.
Such discrepancy also applies in the case of Muslim OBCs. In Madhya Pradesh, for
example, there are 37 communities listed in the state list as Islamic groups,
however, only 27 of them are found in the Central list. In Bihar, after the recent
revision of the list, there are 17 OBC groups that have not found place in the
central list. Six of them are exclusively Muslim, namely, (i) Faqir/Diwan, (ii)
Julaha/Ansari (the synonym Momin is in the Central List), (iii)
Itrfarosh/Gadheri/Itpaj/Ibrahimi, (iv) Jat, (v) Gadaria and (vi) Surajpuri. In Uttar
Pradesh, two Muslim groups-Mirshikar and Nanbai-have not found entry in the
Central list. In Gujarat, Muslim groups such as Jilaya, Tariya-tai, Mansuri, Arab,
Sumra, Tarak, Kalal and Bahvaiya are listed in the State’s backward list but not in
the Central list. Similarly many Muslim groups in Maharashtra such as Mansooris,
Pan Faroshs, Ataar, Sanpagarudi, Muslim Madari, Muslim Gawli, Darwesi, Hashmi,
Nalband among others have not found entry in the Central list.
The lists of OBCs prepared by the state governments have also missed many
underprivileged castes and communities. There are a few groups among Muslims
that have found place in the Central list but are yet to be included in the State lists.
Kalwars in Bihar, Mansooris in Rajasthan, Atishbazs in Uttar Pradesh, Rayeens,
Kalwars, Rangwas and Churihars in West Bengal are examples of such Muslim
groups. There are still a number of Muslim groups that have neither been included
in the State list nor in the Central list. These groups can be identified using the
information collected by Anthropological Survey of India under its People of India
Project. In Gujarat for instance, the Project found 85 Muslim communities, of
which at least 76 are non-ashraf. In the Central list, however, only 22 of them have
found entry, whereas in the State list, there are only 27 Muslim groups. In Bihar,
according to the Project, there are 37 castes/communities that can be counted as
non-ashraf, however, only 23 are in the Central list. In Uttar Pradesh, the Project
lists 67 communities among Muslims, 61 of whom are occupational groups. Both
the State and the Central lists of OBCs contain only 32 of them.

The Muslim OBCs and Affirmative Action

SC status for Muslim groups
While the Ashrafs and the Ajlafs occupy the highest and the middle positions in
the Muslim social structure, the Arzals are the lowest comprising of those having
similar traditional occupation as their Hindu counterparts in the list of Schedule
Castes. It is widely believed that these communities are converts from the
‘untouchables’ among Hindus. Change in religion did not bring any change in
their social or economic status. Because of the stigma attached to their
traditional occupation, they suffer social exclusion. Despite this, they have been
deprived of SC status available to their Hindu counterparts.
Their exclusion from the SC list dates back to 1936 when the Imperial
(Scheduled Caste) Order rejected SC status to Christians and Buddhists of
similar origins. Depressed classes among the Muslims such as Halalkhors were
included in the list but were barred from availing the benefits. This colonial
decree remained the basis on which the government of Independent India,
through the Constitutional (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, has denied them the
status in accordance with the deprivations that they face. The Order, however,
has been amended twice; once in 1956 to include the SCs among the Sikhs and
later in 1990 to include the neo-Buddhists. Thus, practically only the Muslims
and Christians of such origins continue to be denied the status. As a result, such
Muslim groups namely, gadheris, gorkuns, mehtars or halalkhors, Muslim
dhobis, bakhos, nats, pamarias, lalbegis and others remain impoverished and
marginalized. Their inclusion in the OBC list has failed to make any impact as
they are clubbed with the more advanced middle castes.

Many have argued that the Order of 1950 is inconsistent with Article 14, 15, 16
and 25 of the Constitution that guarantee equality of opportunity, freedom of
conscience and protect the citizens from discrimination by the State on grounds
of religion, caste or creed.

No comments:

Post a Comment