Bangalore: DV has just published a review of two important books on the “existence of caste” among North Indian Muslims. (M.A. Delvi: “Frank admission of caste among Muslims in North India”, DV Feb.1, 2008, p.23). The books are: (1) Hindusthan Mein Zatpath Aur Mussalman, Masood Alam Falahi, (2) Basic Problems of OBC & Dalit Muslims, Ashfaq Hussain Ansari.
Now an organisation called Akhil Maharashtra Muslim Khatik Samaj (AMMKS) has gone to Supreme Court on the “existence of caste” within Muslims.
They said there were Arzals (Dalits) in the Muslim community who also needed reservation. Though Hindu Khatiks (those who slaughter animals) were included in the SC category, Muslim Khatiks were denied the benefit despite being their being on the same social strata and facing similar discrimination.
It said there was need to identify and include Muslim Arzals such as Khatiks, Mehters, Bhangis, Lalbegis, Halakhors, Mochis,Mukris and Garudis in the SC category. (Hindu, Jan.27, 2008).
Caste identity: The AMMKS uses the word “caste” in its petition that came up before the court on Jan.25, 2007. The authors of the two books reviewed in DV also used the same word.
But can we say that caste (like that within the Hindu caste system) exists among Muslims? The Hindu “caste” has certain basic features: no intermarriage, no inter-dining, no common prayer.
Caste no doubt is a person’s “ethnic identity”. In DV, we have even gone to the extent of calling caste a nation. (V.T. Rajshekar, Caste — A Nation Within Nation, Books for Change, Bangalore).
But under Indian Muslims, what exists is not a caste but sect.
In a masjid, Dalit Muslims, Khatik Muslims or weaver Muslims can all sit together and pray together. One who goes first can sit first within the masjid prayer hall. Similarly, at a Muslim marriage one who goes first will sit first and will be served food first. There is no reservation or exclusively reserved areas for any section within the masjid or in a marriage hall. Nobody is given preference. Besides, the sharia applies to all Muslims irrespective of “caste”.
Born unequal under Hinduism: But under Hinduism, it is total discrimination from birth to death. The Hindu temple is the most cursed place which the Untouchables hate because they are not allowed inside. Each caste has a place allotted to them with Brahmins getting the precedence. But there is no racism among Muslims.
In the light of these hard facts, can we say what exists among Muslims is “caste”? They are not castes but sects which are fully sanctioned under the Quran. Several tribes existed among Arabs even during the period of Prophet Mohammed who belonged to the Qurayash tribe. Inter-tribe clashes were common.
Castes turned sects: In the eyes of god all Muslims are equal but under Hinduism you are born unequal. At every stage you face discrimination. Dr. Babasheb was thrown out of the school because he was born Untouchable.
When the different oppressed castes among Untouchables and Backward Castes — victims of Hindu racism — embraced Islam, and received instant relief, got liberated and elevated they ceased to be castes and became sects.
A sect is totally and radically different from a caste. We are well aware of the difference between the caste and sect. And DV is pledged to support all the oppressed — whether they are castes or sects.
Muslims, a divided community: Supreme Court has to decide if the Muslim society like the Muslim Khatik Samaj can be included for reservation along with Dalit Christians.
Both the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission had examined the issue and recommended de-linking of religion from the issue of SCs and that quota be extended to Dalits of all religions.
The issue is no doubt complicated. India itself is the world’s most complicated country being a human zoo.
But it is not proper for certain Muslim organisations to say that extending reservation to Dalit or OBC Muslims would divide the community. The Muslims are already a divided — too much — community. The Hindus may be encouraging the division. But if the Muslim leaders oppose reservation to Dalit and OBC Muslims they will be only helping the Hindu terrorist party, RSS-BJP, to sharpen this division.