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Restoring Secular Democracy key to Development of Muslims, say Politicians and Experts

Political leaders and noted individuals discussed the problems faced by Indian Muslims, with special reference to West Bengal, at a recent seminar.
Restoring Secular Democracy key to Development of Muslims, say Politicians and Experts

Representational Image. (File Image)

Kolkata: "Only by restoring the secular democratic fabric of the country and constitutional values can the issue of the Muslim community's socio-economic development be resolved," said the participants, including political leaders and experts, at a seminar organised in Kolkata by the Hasim Abdul Halim foundation on March 11 and 12.

They also commented that currently, the minority community's security has become the prime question, and the agenda of socio-economically developing the community is now on the back burner.

It can be recalled that the Sachar Committee recommendations, which were placed 17 years ago, had strongly criticised the different state governments, including the then Left Front government, and had raised storms amid the minority community. 

However, the new TMC state government has disregarded the recommendations of the Sachar committee, which was headed by the late Justice Rajinder Sachar, said speakers at the seminar.

The seminar "Sachar Committee and Questions of Muslims in India with Special Reference to West Bengal" was inaugurated by K Rahman Khan, former Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha and former central government minister. The event featured several speakers, including CPI(M) State Secretary and former MP MD Salim, former Chief of Army Staff and former Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Lt General Zamiruddin Shah, and ex-minister of Bihar Shakilujjaman Ansari.

In his speech, Md Salim traced the history of the Sachar Committee report that was placed and commissioned during the times of the Left-supported UPA 1 government. It was a part of the common minimum programme that the UPA 1 government was following, he said. "Following that report, many came on the road then citing that West Bengal is backwards regarding the development of the minority community but now all of them are maintaining a stoic silence over the matter," he said.

"The question of safety and security of the minority community is now a pressing concern, and even academic discussions about the socio-economic development of the minority community and the Sachar report have come to naught," he added. Salim also emphasised that reinforcing the country's secular democratic values is essential for its development.

Salim highlighted the Left Front's commitment to the cause of minority development, citing an example of how, after the Ranganath Mishra Commission report was published, West Bengal became the first state to provide 15% reservation to minorities under the OBC A category.

He also criticised the "lacklustre attitude" of the TMC-run state government towards minority development. He mentioned the recent closure of 8,000 schools in the state, most of which he claimed belonged to areas where the maximum number of dwellers are from the Muslim, the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe communities. Additionally, he underlined the deplorable condition of Alia University and alleged that its land is being conspired to be handed over to real estate agents.

Speaking at the programme, K Rahman Khan said that over 40% of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee were accepted and work regarding that was taken up during the UPA government's time. But the subsequent Modi government is keeping mum over the recommendations, and the work is biting the dust, he stated.

Lt General Zamir Uddin Shah took a strong displeasure towards the phrase "minority appeasement" and said that a phrase like "majority appeasement" is never used in the national media. 

He also urged the Muslim minority population to play an active role in overcoming the community's backwardness. Furthermore, he raised the issue of the proper utilisation of Zakat and Waqf properties.

During his speech, Shakilujjajaman Ansari highlighted that the Sachar Committee had correctly identified the problems affecting the community. He added that while the UPA Government had taken steps to address these issues, the current Modi government and state governments like West Bengal were doing very little. Therefore, it is necessary to organise movements against these governments, he said.

The opening ceremony of the programme was hosted by social activist Saira Shah Halim. During his welcome speech, Dr Fuad Halim, Managing Trustee of the Hashim Abdul Halim Foundation, stated that the seminar aimed to reignite interest in the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission among the wider society.

A documentary film about Hashim Abdul Halim, the late legendary Speaker of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, was also screened during the two-day event.

On the second day of the seminar, which took place at the premises of Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad, Prof Abdul Martin of Jadavpur University, Jad Mehmud, Hasnan Imam, and Khawaja Javed Yusuf acted as comperes. Notable speakers included legal expert and Rajyasabha MP Bikashranjan Bhattacharya, Prof Debasish Sarkar, former Kolkata High Court Justice Toufikuddin, former Lok Sabha MP Prof. Saidul Haq, former IPS officer Nazrul Islam, Ujjaini Halim of the Association for Democratic Reforms, and Dr Fuad Halim, Managing Trustee of the Hashim Abdul Halim Foundation.

In his valedictory speech, Advocate Bikashranjan Bhattacharya claimed that the condition of reservations for Muslims that were started by the Left Front Government is now in shambles. For instance, he said, only one of the 173 PhD enrollees at Jadavpur University is from the Muslim community.

Former Justice Toufikuddin of the Kolkata High Court said the state's weakened education system was leading to many Muslim youths dropping out of school and migrating to Tamil Nadu and Kerala for work as migrant labourers. He also expressed concern claiming that Muslim youths in Bengal are being trained to be antisocial and used as scapegoats during inter-factional feuds of the ruling party, the Trinamool Congress. "The TMC government, in power for so long, will not do anything substantive for the Muslims of the state, and the question of backwardness of the Muslim community will not be solved," he said in his speech.

Dr Fuad Halim welcomed all the speakers and guests to the seminar and emphasised that the current attacks on the reservation system for minority Muslim communities are attacks on the reservation system of the country. He added that the fight for reservations for backward Muslim communities needs to be strengthened along with reservations for SC, ST, and other backward castes. "Hence, the foundation will take steps to organize a national-level convention in the coming days with this aim," he said.

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