The Bengal government is likely to face embarrassment over its inability to justify its recommendation for inclusion of 87 castes in the central OBC list.
All these 87 caste groups are Muslims. The Bengal government had made this recommendation to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) last year and despite reservations expressed by the Commission, pressed ahead with its proposal.
These 87 caste groups have already been included in the state OBC list and the Bengal government is keen to have them included in the national list in order to enable them to get jobs and other benefits throughout the country.
The NCBC had, earlier, questioned how 118 of the 179 caste groups in the state OBC list are Muslims.
NCBC chairperson Hansraj Gangaram Ahir had, in June this year, accused the Bengal government of playing “appeasement politics” by granting OBC status to Muslim groups in the state.
The NCBC had launched a probe into the Bengal OBC list and had sent a delegation to Bengal earlier this year. Ahir told Swarajya that the state government “could not provide satisfactory replies to our primary question about how there are more Muslim groups in the state OBC list than Hindus”.
The Bengal government had argued that the Muslims groups who were included in the state OBC list were backward Hindus who had converted to Islam. When the NCBC asked the Bengal government to produce proof of its contention, the state government failed to do so.
But far from being discouraged by its failure to produce evidence to back its stand that the Muslim groups in the state OBC list were backward Hindus who converted to Islam, the state government pressed ahead by insisting on inclusion of 87 of the Muslim groups in the central OBC list.
That has irked the NCBC. The Commission has asked the Bengal chief secretary and the secretary of the OBC welfare department to personally present proof to back the state’s claim in support of the inclusion of the 87 Muslim groups in the OBC list in New Delhi on 3 November.
The NCBC has asked the Bengal government to produce documents on the status of the 87 communities going back to the Imperial Gazetteer, along with the ethnographic details of all these groups, to back its claim that the 87 Muslims groups were backward Hindus who converted to Islam.
But the Bengal government, said sources, does not have such evidence. A group of officials have been literally burning the midnight oil to locate documents from the government archives.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is keen on getting the 87 Muslim groups included in the central OBC list since she had promised the same to Muslim community leaders and now fears they will turn against her if she does not fulfil her promise, asked a group of officials to slog throughout the ongoing Durga Puja holidays to trace out these documents.
“After the NCBC issued the notice on October 16, officials were asked by the CM to locate all records in support of the state’s contention. But the problem is that such records do not exist and whatever evidence has been unearthed about the status of these communities in the past is, at best, very flimsy,” a senior officer of the OBC welfare department told Swarajya.
The NCBC had questioned the “unusual abundance” of Muslim groups in the state OBC list, especially in Category A of the list.
There are two categories — A and B — in the OBC list and communities in Category A are entitled to more benefits than those in Category B. Tellingly, 73 of the 81 groups in Category A are Muslims.
Of the 98 communities listed in category B of the state OBC list, 45 are Muslims and 53 are Hindus.
The BJP says this is a clear cut case of Muslim appeasement since backward Hindus vastly outnumber Muslims in reality, but more Muslim groups have been included in the OBC list by the Mamata Banerjee government.
NCBC chairperson Ahir said “it is clear that the Bengal government has arbitrarily given non-deserving communities OBC status”.
The NCBC has also asked for details of caste-wise breakup of the 87 Muslim groups in admissions in medical colleges, dental colleges and nursing colleges over the past three years. “We have also asked the state government to produce records of selections made from these 87 groups in examinations (for jobs and admissions to educational institutions) by various state selection boards over the last ten years,” an NCBC official told Swarajya from New Delhi.
That is not all. The Commission has sought the caste-wise break-up of employees across all categories (Group 1 to 4) in state ministries, departments, educational institutions, medical institutions and local bodies.
All this has been done to expose the state government’s lie that the 87 Muslim groups are backward and merit inclusion in the OBC list.
“We know that the state government will not be able to justify its stand that the 87 groups should be included in the central OBC list since they were backward Hindus in the past. There are no records to support this stand and we are keen to expose this lie. That’s why the state chief secretary and the OBC welfare department head have been called to present the records to the Commission in New Delhi early next month,” the NCBC source told Swarajya.
The details of employment across all categories in the Bengal government have been called to expose the hollowness of the Mamata Banerjee government’s contention that the 118 Muslim groups in the state OBC list are all backward and deserve affirmative action like reservations in jobs and educational institutions.
“There are many Muslim communities which are backward and deserve benefits. But the largescale inclusion of Muslim groups in the OBC list in Bengal to make them eligible for benefits is wrong and needs to be exposed,” said Ahir.
The NCBC hearing on 3 November is likely to put the Bengal government in a tight spot. Since the state government does not have documents to back its stand for inclusion of the 87 Muslim groups in the central OBC list, the NCBC will reject the state’s recommendation.
That will put Mamata Banerjee in trouble. “Muslim community leaders who she has been wooing will not buy her contention that the NCBC rejected the state’s proposal. It will be known that the proposal was rejected because of the state government’s inability to produce documents and records to back its proposal. So it is the state government which is to blame. Coming ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, this will constitute a big blow to Mamata Banerjee who depends majorly on her Muslim vote bank to win elections,” said political analyst Rudranil Guha.
Having promised benefits of reservation in jobs and admissions to educational institutions to the ‘undeserving’ Muslim groups, Mamata Banerjee will be hard-pressed to explain why her promise has not turned into reality.
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