A TV anchor recently vented his displeasure at an MP’s remark against the Sachar Committee report. The report has become a yardstick of certification of one’s ‘secularism’ in general, and commitment to extra-constitutional privileges of Muslims in particular. The report is quoted as though it is the Gita of Indian secularism. By virtue of my research into thousands of pages of the committee’s deliberations and proceedings lying in Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum Library, I am privileged to deconstruct the myth woven around the Sachar Committee.
I have sought to understand Indian Muslims’ grievances and genuine demands, as well as their post-Partition mentality. Sadly, the 400-page report does not reflect the proceedings, papers, memorandums and witnesses’ versions recorded by the committee.
There are facts that delegitimise the Sachar Committee itself. The preponderance of its Muslim membership apart—which hardly matters in a secular democracy—three instances reveal that ghost of the pre-Partition Muslim League stalked the committee.
First, Prof. Rakesh Basant from IIM-A, a member of the committee, complained to chairman Rajinder Sachar that members were allocated tasks that weren’t part of the committee’s terms and references. This is an allusion to the fact that the chairman, obviously under the pressure of its Muslim members,
exceeded the original brief.
Syed Hamid, a member, wrote to Sachar, “A large number of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies with substantial Muslim population have been reserved under the category of the SC and ST, adversely affecting Muslim representation. The reserved status of these constituencies, which has proved detrimental to minority interests, needs to be withdrawn before the next Lok Sabha elections, so that justice is restored to the Muslims across the country.” Hamid also mischievously suggested that the chairman constitute a sub-committee to study this aspect and make recommendations. This demand for special Muslim representation in Assemblies and Parliament violated all norms, secular ethos and the Lakshman Rekha drawn by the Constituent Assembly.
The committee wanted reserved Assembly constituencies to be de-reserved, as the number of Muslim voters in these constituencies varies between 19-46 per cent, while recommending the de-reservation of constituencies where SC/ST voters vary between 20-47 per cent, with no substantial number of Muslim voters in them. This recommendation of de-reservation of all reserved seats for SC & STs is downright pernicious.
Basant further revealed that the committee manipulated statistics to push its agenda. Data was analysed by those who had never done such work before. Sachar, a retired high court judge, was not oblivious of the fact that data analysis is specialised academic work and wrong analysis could lead to misconceived conclusion. The Sachar Committee made an anaesthetist do the job of a surgeon. Basant’s complaint was suppressed.
The committee strove its utmost to undermine institutions built on secular foundations. Its demands that the Indian Army lay out communal statistics —which the army rightly refused—and all civil services commissions do likewise were the worst instances. Rinchen Dorjee, chairman of Arunachal Pradesh Public Services Commission, wrote to Sachar (November 24, 2005): “It may be kindly noted that the commission does not adopt any application format to indicate the candidate’s religion. There is no occasion to treat Muslims differently in this state.”
The committee’s secretary, Abusaleh Sariff, against his chairman’s wishes, shot off a letter to DRDO Director General (Research), and ISRO on August 31, 2006, asking for details of Muslim representation, ignoring the sensitive nature of this organisation. It also demanded the delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in a manner as to club all Muslim-dominated localities in a district into a single constituency.
Yet, the Sachar Report continues to be held as a gospel when it comes to pandering to minorityism. This travesty masks the unfortunate fact that we are neither honest to Muslims’ true interests nor to secularism. The country’s politics lacks honesty and as a result, intellectual discourse is conducted with half-truths, selective facts and manipulated ideas. The Sachar Report, thus, must be exposed to unravel the fraud it has sought to perpetrate on the nation.
Sinha is Hony Director of India Policy Foundation