Many Muslim groups in Andhra Pradesh staged protests Tuesday, mounting pressure on the state government to press for a constitutional amendment in higher education and jobs, a day after the high court struck down reservations for the community a third time.
Blaming the state government for its failure to put up a strong case in favour of reservations, the Muslim groups wanted the government to take all necessary steps to protect their interests.
In Vijayawada and Warangal towns, a large number of students, including burqa-clad girls, came on to the streets.
“The reservations were immensely benefiting the community. Now that the court has struck it down, it is the responsibility of the government to prove its sincerity by taking necessary steps to protect the quota,” said a student in Warangal.
With the seven-judge bench of the Andhra Pradesh high court Monday quashing the state legislation providing four percent reservations, disappointment has set in for the community.
Political observers say the disappointment is understandable given the positive impact the reservations were having on efforts for social and economic upliftment of the community.
During the last three years, about 30,000 Muslim students have been admitted to various professional courses and nearly 3,000 candidates were recruited to government jobs.
Though the Congress government has already decided to challenge it in Supreme Court, the community members want it to press the centre to bring a constitutional amendment.
The state government has come under criticism from not just the Muslim community but also opposition parties for failing to defend the quota in the court a third time since 2004.
“When Muslims in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka are provided reservations, it is strange that it is getting quashed repeatedly in Andhra Pradesh High Court,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, Hyderabad MP and president of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), who considers the latest verdict a severe blow to the community.
The high court has set aside one government order and two legislations for Muslim reservations during the last six years.
While MIM, a key Muslim party in Hyderabad, staged protests here, there were spontaneous demonstrations in Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Vijayawada and other towns.
Congress MP from Kadapa Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, whose father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had taken the historic step to provide quotas to Muslims, assured the community that he would urge party president Sonia Gandhi to bring a constitutional amendment.
Parties like the Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) also feel that a constitutional amendment alone can help.
TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao has even promised 12 percent reservations to Muslims (in proportion to their representation) in the proposed separate Telangana state. But few believe this, given the setbacks despite the government bringing down the quota from five to four percent and confining it to 15 backward classes among Muslims to overcome legal hurdles.
According to the 2001 census, Muslims constitute 9.2 percent of the 77 million population of Andhra Pradesh. They are 12 to 13 percent in Telangana, which comprises 10 districts, including Hyderabad.