The Justice LG Havanur Commission report of 1975 and the Justice Chinnappa Reddy Commission report of 1990 show that they conducted detailed and meticulous studies to assess the socio-economic backwardness of communities in Karnataka.

They then decided that a huge section of the Muslim community was socio-economically and educationally backward, apart from being politically under-represented. Both commissions recommended reservation in education and jobs in Karnataka to backward sections within the Muslim community.

Denying OBC reservation for Muslims in Karnataka

On 24 March, the BJP government in Karnataka led by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai — with no scientific study, no consultation, or empirical data, it seems — decided that huge groups of Muslims in the state are no longer socio-economically backward and hence don’t deserve reservation under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota.

Given that Muslims, excluding some sub-sects and sub-castes, are categorised as OBCs even in the Central reservation list, one must ask if the BJP government’s move in Karnataka to deny OBC quota to Muslims is simply a case of testing the waters before applying it at the national level, especially with Lok Sabha elections coming up in 2024.

History is proof that polarisation brings the BJP great electoral dividends.

Polarisation, Hindu appeasement, political choices

The Bommai Cabinet scrapped the constitutionally guaranteed right of the Muslim community. The fact that the hurried and questionable move comes barely days ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections 2023 is crucial.

In the poll-bound state, communally charged comments, issues, and speeches have become a common affair — all aimed at polarisation. The move to scrap OBC reservation for Muslims in Karnataka is simply the next step in this scheme of things.

While legal experts and former backward commission chiefs have pointed out how the Bommai Cabinet’s move is legally untenable and unscientific, Opposition party leaders have noted how it is against the basic tenets of social justice — the building blocks of the purpose of reservation in India as envisioned by Dr BR Ambedkar.

From denying hijab-clad Muslim students entry into schools to calls for an economic boycott of Muslim traders, or BJP leaders like KS Eshwarappa publicly denouncing Muslim voters and others like BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel repeatedly invoking Tipu Sultan and Savarkar, the ruling party has made it clear that polarisation and Hindu appeasement are its go-to pitches this election.

That is precisely why the government has taken its latest decision too. Not only has the Karnataka government scrapped the 4 percent reservation for Muslims under the OBC category, it has also divided their quota between two politically and socially dominant Hindu groups — Lingayats and Vokkaligas.

If there were any doubts that this was a political move, Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s defence of the decision — by deeming it “unconstitutional to give quota on the basis of religion” while in reality the reservation was based on socio-economic and educational backwardness — will put them all to rest.

Shah was repeating what Chief Minister Bommai had claimed while defending the move. Bommai added that Muslims in Karnataka can now claim reservation under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota and that his Cabinet had done justice to all.

None of the claims is accurate…

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