By (late)Ashfaq Husain Ansari
In democracy only those are heard who have their own voice. At each level representation of Muslims and particularly of Backward Muslims is getting lesser and lesser day by day. Justice Venkat Challiaiah, Chairman of the Constitution Review Commission formed by the Central Government has said in his report:
“At present, the political representation of minority communities in legislatures, especially Muslims has fallen well below their proportion of population. The proportion of Backward Classes among them is next to nil.”
He further states:
“Backward classes belonging to religious minorities who have been identified and included in the list of backward classes and who, in fact, constitute the bulk of the population of religious minorities should be taken up with special care along with their Hindu counterparts in the developmental efforts for the Backward Classes.”
Against this background when the stock of Muslim representation in the first to thirteenth Lok Sabha is taken, the picture which comes up show that the Muslim representation in the 1st to 13th Lok Sabha has been very low in proportional to their population and in that the case of the Backward Muslims representation is worst. For the 13th Lok Sabha which has been recently dissolved, only 31 Muslims could get elected and among those none was representative of the Backward Muslim classes. Similarly the number of Muslim members elected to the 12th Lok Sabha was 28 and there was none belonging to the Muslim backward classes. In the 11th Lok Sabha, the number of Muslim members was 29, whereas in the 10th Lok Sabha this figure was only 25. In the 9th Lok Sabha Muslim representation was 27. In 1984, when election was held against the background of Indira Gandhi’s martyrdom and congress registered two third majority and while the Bhartiya Janata Party sank to only 2, even then the number of Muslim members in the Lok Sabha could not get beyond 42. The tragedy of the 1984 Lok Sabha election was that this time congress gave lesser number of tickets to Muslims as compared to the seventh Lok Sabha resulting in a decrease number of tickets to Backward Class Muslims also. Congress came back to power in the 17th Lok Sabha. In this Lok Sabha, the number of Muslim members was as high as 48 and Muslim Backward Class members were total 6. The Janata wave in 1977 could only fetch up to 31 seats for Muslims in the Lok Sabha and out of it not more than two were from the Muslim Backward Classes. Both in the 4th and 5th Lok Sabha Muslim representation remain 28, whereas in the 3rd Lok Sabha of 1962, Muslim representation was only 20. Under the constitution of the republic after the first election of the Lok Sabha, only 11 Muslims could succeed and this number increased to 19 for the second Lok Sabha in 1957.
This is the picture of Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha. Generally, Muslim population is 12 percent of the total population of India. That means Muslim representation remained between 2.5 to 8 percent. This percentage shrank to 6 percent from the 8th to 13th Lok Sabha. Now, it is clear that in the Lok Sabha the Muslim representation has been not even half in proportion to its population and more startling point is that after 7th Lok Sabha, representation of the Backward Muslims started dwindling and by the 9th Lok Sabha it almost came to none. If studied deeply, the facts are even more startling. The Muslim population is estimated as about 12 percent of the total population of India and of this according to the facts and figures of Mandal commission, 85% are Backward Muslims. In proportional to Muslim population at least 64 of them must get seats in the Lok Sabha and if one third are supposed to be estimated as non backward Muslims the share of seats come to 21. The conclusion is obvious that non Backward Muslims are generally getting more representation in comparison to their population, while even the meager representation of backward Muslims which used to be limited to only few in number came to nil after the 9th Lok Sabha.
Demand for representation of Muslims according to the proportion of their population has been raised off and on and with election round the corner every organization has been putting up this demand by holding seminars, meetings and rallies in Delhi. But Muslim leaders never wish to disclose the fact that non Backward Muslims have been enjoying much more representation than their proportion in Muslim population, whereas the representation of the Backward Muslims according to the ratio of their population is surprising low. For this neither the Backward Muslim leaders unitedly raised a voice nor do the leaders of the secular parties who claim sympathy for Muslims. Almost the same picture of backward Muslims representation is identified in the state legislatures; the upper houses do not present a different look. There is no practice or convention that in case the Muslim representation in the center is low the repair is done in the Rajya Sabha. At state level, too no such convention exists for the Vidhan Parishads. Be it Rajya Sabha or within Parishads, at both places the representation of Muslims, particularly of backward class Muslims is receding day by day.
Mr Tanvir Salim