The Zakat Foundation, as we have reported earlier, is linked to the Radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and a host of Islamist organisations. Furthermore, they demand ‘proportional representation’ and reservations for Muslims in government jobs. The Zakat Foundation, aside from its extremely problematic views, has been relentless in making their demands heard regardless of which government is in power.
When the Congress was in power in 2013, the Zakat Foundation had met the then PM, Manmohan Singh and demanded that seats where Muslims form a large population be ‘delimited’ and Rahul Gandhi had promised to add it in their 2014 manifesto.
What is Delimitation of seats
Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats to represent changes in population. While the delimitation is in process, the number of seats allocated to a state also change depending on the population and demography. The delimitation committee’s decision is considered sacrosanct and cannot be challenged in any court of law.
Initially, when the Delimitation Committee was formed, the idea was to ensure equal representation of every segment of the population and also to ensure that no political party gets an advantage in the electoral process by ensuring that the geographical area was divided fairly.
What does Zakat Foundation want
During the negotiations for Ram Janmabhoomi, the Zakat Foundation was a part of the process. They had posed 8 extremely problematic demands to concede the Ram Janmabhoomi. Eventually, the negotiations failed, however, it is important to understand the mindset of the Zakat Foundation through the demands they made.
One of the demands made by the Zakat Foundation was “The constituencies of Lok Sabha and state assemblies where the Muslim population is very high while the Scheduled Caste percentage is not among the highest should be de-reserved. Instead, reserve those constituencies where SC percentage is among the highest, as recommended by the Sachar Committee.”
This demand stems from the ZFI’s intention of increasing Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha. The ZFI is of the opinion that the number of Muslim MPs in the Lower House of the Parliament is less than the number it is supposed to be in terms of their proportion to the Indian population. In short, they wish to have Muslim MPs proportional to their share of their population, a demand that was summarily rejected by the Constituent Assembly of India.
Furthermore, the Sachar Committee that is spoken of here is a panel that was set up by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into alleged Muslim deprivation and Syed Zafar Mahmood actually served in the Committee. Thus, he is promoting the recommendations of a committee he was himself a member of.
The demand for delimitation was not limited to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the negotiations thereof. This demand has been one which has been pushed by the Zakat Foundation since a long time. In fact, it is one of the tropes they use to tell IAS aspirants that they need to get into the bureaucracy so that they can make such demands a reality.
What did Manmohan Singh say in 2013 to the Zakat Foundation demand
In a presentation made by the Zakat Foundation President in the year 2016, he reveals that he had met erstwhile Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and demanded that before the 2014 elections, the LS seats should be delimited to ensure that more Muslims get elected to the Parliament.
In 2013, when the 7th Pay Commission was announced, the Zakat Foundation made a representation to the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and asked if they Pay Commission can be implemented, then why not the Delimitation demands. Interestingly, Dr Manmohan Singh was reportedly “reminded” of this pending issue while Zakat Foundation had met him in the aftermath of the Muzaffarpur riots.
According to a Times of India report, Zakat Foundation chief said, “The PM told us that in view of the upcoming election how can a delimitation commission be appointed now?”. It is to be noted that Mahmood was also the PM-appointed officer on special duty to the Sachar Committee.
What did Rahul Gandhi promise to the Zakat Foundation
In 2013, Rahul Gandhi had held a detailed discussion with Muslim leaders from across the country. In this discussion, Rahul Gandhi had promised that the issue of delimitation of Muslim seats will be recommended to the committee and that he will also ensure that Congress adds this demand in their 2014 manifesto.
The twocircles article says:
The matter was raised during the meeting with Rahul Gandhi by Dr Syed. Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India who presented 20 Works to be done for Muslims. These also include the establishment of fast track courts to deal with terror allegations, compensation of Rs 50 lakh to each person who is judicially acquitted of terror allegations, deletion of para 3 from the 1950 definition of scheduled caste, withdrawal of limited competitive examination scheme for recruitment of additional 1400 IPS officers, restoration of minority character of AMU.
Essentially, if the Congress had come back to power in the year 2014 or 2019, delimitation of seats was a near certainly. This would mean far more Muslim representatives in the parliament and more importantly, the reservations being taken away from the SC/ST community.
What is interesting to observe is that this demand is not very different from the demand of separate electorates made by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a demand that was rejected by Jawaharlal Nehru. The demand for a separate electoral essentially meant that Jinnah believed Hindus and Muslims cannot co-exist and that Hindus were incapable of representing the interests of Muslims. This was a direct consequence of the two-nation theory that was espoused by Jinnah. That the Zakat Foundation is pursuing the demand for delimitation specifically of Muslim seats, while not exactly like demanding a separate electorate also points towards the same mindset.