The merit list of a recruitment drive published by the West Bengal Police Recruitment Board has attracted a lot of attention on social media. The drive was meant to fill vacancies in the OBC-A category in the state. The list showed that apart from one or two individuals, all of them were Muslims.
It is not the first time that Bengal’s recruitment drive merit list has gone viral. The same had happened in 2019 as well. While it is probably an incomplete list that has gone viral and the complete list is likely to include a few more names since it mentions a list of 50 candidates, it is unlikely that complete list will deviate from the claims being made with regards to the list.
There are a total of 80 groups included in the OBC-A category, of which 72 are Muslim groups. In the OBC-B category, about 40 groups are Muslim. Thus, out of 170 groups listed in the OBC category in total, 112 are Muslim. OBC-A is defined as ‘more backward’ and OBC-B as just backward.
Thus, the over-representation of Muslims in the OBC categorization in West Bengal is quite shocking. But such classification of Muslims in OBC categories can be found in other states too. In Bihar, 24 out of 133 groups in the OBC category are Muslim. Muslim groups figure in the Economically Backward Class caste list in Bihar as well.
Groups such as Dafaliya, Pamariya, Madari and Momin figure in the Bihar EBC caste list.
Apart from that, Christian converts from the SC and OBC category are also listed as OBCs. Thus, Christian converts from these groups do enjoy benefits of reservation after converting out of Hinduism. The state list of OBCs mention numerous Muslim groups as well as Christian converts as well.
In Maharashtra as well, Muslim groups such as Ansari and Kasab are included in the OBC category in both the state list and the central list. In Uttar Pradesh, the central OBC list includes numerous Muslim groups such as Muslim Kayasthas and Qureshis.
The state list of OBCs in Uttar Pradesh consists the same as well. Gujarat has Muslim groups in the OBC central list as well. Groups such as Ansari, Mirasi, Mansuri-Pinjara find themselves in the list. In addition, Christian converts are included in this list too.
90% of groups in OBC-A category in West Bengal are Muslim
Such inclusion of Muslims in the OBC category is not limited to only the states mentioned here but is the reality in most states of India. There are multiple problematic aspects of the categorization.
Firstly, the Muslims and Christians in the OBC lists can still access the minority benefits available to minority communities in the country. Secondly, there is the blatant incentive for Hindus to convert with such a categorization.
If they convert to Islam, then they can access benefits both under the OBC category and minority benefits. For Christian converts, the negative consequences of conversion are limited by their inclusion to the OBC category.
But there is another thing of consequence to note here. While Muslim groups are included in the OBC category in other states, nowhere is the situation so dire as in West Bengal. In West Bengal, an overwhelming majority of the OBC groups are Muslim, 2/3rds in fact.
Back in 2012, Mamata Banerjee had said, “At present there are 65 communities in the OBC category and today the cabinet has taken a decision to include 33 more castes and sub-castes into the list which will bring 98 of the identified 143 castes in the state under OBC category.” “This will bring 99 per cent of the Muslim community under this category,” she added.
Since then, the policy has been implemented and it basically amounts to religious reservations in the state. When 99% of the Muslim community has been added to the OBC category where Muslim groups constitute for 2/3rd of the total groups, it leaves little room for any other interpretation.
Especially in the OBC-A category for the ‘more backward class’, 90% of the groups are the Muslims. It had become a political flashpoint in the state with the BJP’s OBC Morcha acusing the Trinamool Government of depriving Hindu OBCs.
“We will carry out a week-long campaign in all Assembly constituencies to let people know that the government is depriving Hindus by allotting more than half of the OBC quota to Muslims, even though Hindu OBCs constitute bigger chunk of the population than Muslims,” the BJP’s OBC Morcha president had said in 2019.
Dangers of such categorization
Reservations in India have been implemented on the premise that there are castes and sub-castes which have been historically oppressed in India. It is also supposed that caste is an intrinsic feature of Hinduism.
It is for this reason that individuals from Christianity and Islam cannot avail benefits reserved for the SC community. But it is quite clear that political parties have found a loophole and have found ways to award benefits to their minority vote-banks through the OBC category.
It directly negatively impacts Hindus of the OBC caste who then have to compete with more individuals for the limited set of resources. Scheduled tribes in numerous states already include Christian converts, thereby, further reducing the incentives against converting out of Hinduism.
Under such circumstances, it is of paramount importance that benefits awarded to OBC communities are reserved for Hindus only. Otherwise, it poses a grave demographic threat to the country and West Bengal in particular.
The inclusion of Muslims in OBC category amounts to religious reservations as in West Bengal, a conscious decision has been made to include 99% of Muslims in the category. There is the risk that other states will follow the same path and provide reservations to the Muslim community under the guise of OBC benefits.
Religious reservations are unconstitutional and for good reason but quite clearly, parties have found a way.