A largely community-based organisation has sought a 4% share of the quota in jobs for Muslims in Meghalaya.
The Anti-Corruption League (ACL), representing the ‘Desi’ Muslims inhabiting the plains belt of Meghalaya’s Garo Hills region, listed its request in a letter to Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma. The letter was submitted on May 30, the day when the National People’s Party-led Meghalaya government reconstituted a Committee for discussing the implementation of a reservation roster system and the State Reservation Policy.
The ACL said that the non-tribal population was 20% when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972. “Despite being a part of Assam and the Assamese culture for centuries, the Desi Muslims extended their support for a separate hill State with high hopes that their rights and socio-economic aspirations would be protected and accommodated in the new State,” it said.
“In the historic tripartite meeting among Central government representatives, non-tribal leadership led by the then MDC (member of district council) Akramuz Zaman and the tribal leadership led by Captain Williamson A. Sangma (Meghalaya’s first Chief Minister), the non-tribals were assured of equal opportunities and fair play by the tribal leaders,” the ACL said.
“It was also promised that our rights and aspirations, our growth and development will be given equal priority and importance as that of the tribal people of Meghalaya,” it added, lamenting that the assurances were never fulfilled.
“The basic idea of the reservation is an affirmative action by the State towards a group of people who were deprived of opportunities or suffered inequalities in the past,” the ACL said, pointing out that the present reservation system not only deprives the meritorious but has also created a group of people who are subjected to injustice and widespread inequalities.
Minor tribes resent snub
Meghalaya’s 51-year-old job reservation policy entails an 80% quota for the three matrilineal communities – Garo, Khasi and Jaintia. The quota is divided equally between the Garos and the Khasi-Jaintia people together.
Another 5% is reserved for ‘other minor tribes’ while 15% is for people in the unreserved categories.
Educationally more backward and numerically lower than the Khasi-Jaintia people, the Garos have hardly been able to utilise their 40% quota. This made one Z.R. Marak approach the High Court of Meghalaya, arguing that other communities were using up the quota meant for the Garo people in violation of the relevant laws.
On April 21, the court asked the Meghalaya government to introduce a roster system that would be relevant only for entry-level posts. Regional political parties, primarily the newly-formed Voice of the People Party (VPP) and some pressure groups saw in the roster system an advantage for the Garos.
A week ago, VPP president Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the review of the reservation policy and the implementation of the roster system prospectively, not retrospectively.
Under pressure, the government reconstituted a committee comprising 12 members to discuss the reservation policy and the roster system. Apart from two senior government officials, the Committee has a representative of each political party.
While the ACL sought the representation of the Desi Muslims in the Committee, the Meghalaya Indigenous Minority Tribes’ Forum (MIMTF) resented the exclusion of the representatives of the minor tribes from the panel. The MIMTF represents the Rabha, Bodo, Hajong, Koch and Mann tribes.
“We are surprised that no invitation or intimation was given to the indigenous minority tribes,” Pramod Koch, a member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council said.