Karnataka State-Level Consultation on Minority Rights

Rehnuma Law Centre, Kalaburagi organized a Karnataka State-level Consultation on Minority Rights, in collaboration with National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru on January 11, 2017 which saw over 12 NGO representatives (based in Karnataka), students of NLS and our own field-level volunteers and paralegals in attendance.

The panelists were Dr. Muzzafar Assadi (HOD, Political Science Department, Mysuru University), Dr. Chaman Farzana (Member, Karnataka Waqf Council), Ms. Salomi Christie (Research Associate, Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad) and Mr. Mangaluru Vijay (Editor, Bapu Prapancha & Mukta Samajavadi Matukate).

Dr. Muzaffar Assadi, HOD (Political Science Department), Mysore University gave the Keynote Address on UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC & POLITICAL SITUATION OF MINORITIES IN INDIA. He stressed on the fact that a social apartheid is happening in India against Muslims and mentioned his own personal experiences with regard to religion-based discrimination when it came to getting a job, buying or renting a house etc. He listed several instances such as the ban on Muslims serving in the armed forces from growing beards and noted how this ban does not apply to Sikh officers (who incidentally are allowed to keep their beards and turbans). He mentioned the absence of the voices of Muslims in educational spaces. In his 22-year-long work as a Professor, he had met only 1 Muslim P.HD candidate.

Muslim students are unable to qualify for master’s courses. Not all Muslims have been included in the Category I and Category II B reserved categories. Certain groups have been arbitrarily considered as belonging to forward castes and there are no statistics and Commission Reports to validate this move. Such Muslims who come under forward castes have become further marginalized, especially after Government interventions like the recent demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes.

He noted that Muslims are facing several crises.

There is a developmental crisis which runs deep. Muslim-inhabited areas are like ghettos. Stereotypes are fostered. All classes of Muslims are living together in such areas, so one cannot say they are all rich or all poor. Communal tensions have pushed Muslims into such areas. They feel secure inside their area. They do not venture out of these areas for fear of discrimination and because they feel physically safe only within that ‘ghetto’ area. Such areas do not have multi-lingual schools. Usually Urdu schools are established there and such schools lack in infrastructure and other essentials. It is interesting to note how it is assumed that Muslims prefer to study in Madrasas when statistics prove that many Muslim children and their parents prefer education at modern schools. However, inability to continue due to financial pressures has led to several dropouts. Lack of Urdu language options in exams like NEET, is hurting higher educational prospects of Muslim students.

Dr. Assadi also expressed his anguish at the lack of basic facilities like banks and post offices in Muslim areas.

Mangalore Muslims fare better because they have facilities which are not available in developmental deficit areas. This is a model. However, Muslims in those areas also feel insecure. It has been, for years, a Hindutva “laboratory”. Apart from communal riots, there are also everyday communal problems there. There can be no interaction between communities there. The first riot was in 1969, and the situation has gone on to become worse from the 1980s onwards. Communal ideology is seeping in and that is the larger problem. Eg. Bababudangiri. There is an identity crisis as well. There is now a caste-like structure among Muslims.

He stressed on the fact that liberal spaces need to be expanded to continue discourse on these issues, even from the gender perspective.

Civil society is suffering at the hands of an oppressive government and this needs special attention.

He then answered several questions from the audience regarding what better model can be used to improve access to opportunities for Muslims through reservations, what NGOs can do to start modern schools in Muslim ‘ghetto’ areas, whether the growing of beards is religiously mandatory as per Islam, why are Muslims called ‘Pakistanis’ in India and how this perception can be changed in order to bring positive change and development among Muslims. He concluded by encouraging a premise where no matter where our ancestors have migrated from, we need to acknowledge that we live in India and we should respect that and live as Indians.

Dr. Chaman Farzana (Member, Karnataka Waqf Council) then spoke on the SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS OF MINORITY WOMEN IN KARNATAKA. She began by stating that when you have to talk about the status of minority women, you have to begin by talking about the status of all women.

Women’s status in society is disappointing in all spheres (be they part of a majority community or a minority community). Women belonging to Muslim communities are worse off than women in any other group.

She elaborated about the status of Muslim women in Islam, as per the Quran.

According to the text, women are treated as equal to men in all respects. The Islamic period was a golden period for Muslim women because back then they were involved in politics, society and even went to war. But as time passed, several Islamic nations struck down these liberal ideologies and monarchy was established. Laws were made which were suitable to the monarch and slowly, Muslim women lost their status.

Speaking about the status of Muslim women in Karnataka, she noted that since women are being looked at as torchbearers of the honor of their communities, any changes in the communities directly affect the status of those women. She quoted the NLSIU Report of 2015 which was a study on issues of religious minorities in Karnataka. She also presented budget expenditure in welfare schemes from a minority lens and explained about the Karnataka Government’s schemes while shedding light on the fact that a lot of money is allocated for the welfare of women but this money remains unused because they are not accessing the schemes and/or are not able to access such schemes. In many cases, many are unaware that such schemes exist.

She concluded by saying that as a responsible society, we need to take up these issues and ensure that those below are not being neglected, in order to improve conditions of the entire community and consequently the society itself.

Ms. Salomi Christie (Research Associate, Centre for Social Justice) presented an ANALYSIS OF THE UNION BUDGET (2016-17) FROM A MINORITY LENS. She began by explaining basic terminology that is necessary to start looking at the budget without being daunted or discouraged by the sheer amount of numbers. She went on to give a visual representation about how less the government is focused on minorities when it comes to Centrally-sponsored schemes. She also threw light on gender budgeting, highlighting the dismal government spending for women in India, particularly minority women and concluded by encouraging the audience to be more aware of the country spending their tax rupees and to equip themselves to be able to question policy decisions with knowledge instead of making umbrella comments based on random news sources.

Mr. Mangaluru Vijay (Editor, Bapu Prapancha & Mukta Samajavadi Matukate) then spoke on the KARNATAKA BUDGET ANALYSIS – BROAD TRENDS & OPPORTUNITIES. He began by stating the current budget of the state of Karnataka which is Rs. 1000 crores. However, this money has not been disseminated effectively enough.

People are kept ignorant. Certain schemes are not being implemented. We have to be able to demand data from the Government since the paper cannot lie. We are complacent and this has to change. Rs. 165 lakhs were given just to two institutions. But this money distributed evenly among several institutions could have had a better impact on society.

He shared his own experiences of lobbying with Government officers in order to learn more about State-level spending for minorities. He showed examples of Government-issued literature which the general public can read and subsequently question the contents of or pose their doubts as questions directly to their local Minority Welfare Officers, Deputy Commissioners and other such Government servants. He also noted the lack of schools and hostels for minority girls as opposed to schools for minority boys. He explained in detail how the money allocated by the state of Karnataka for its minorities is often mired in controversy and mystery and most of it stays unspent or is directed to other causes. He concluded by stressing on the need for the minority communities to wake up to the reality that without making the effort to be aware of certain things, they cannot hope for development for themselves in our country.

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