While CM KCR addressed some of their concerns during his first term, Muslims in Telangana still lack real empowerment and many feel that legitimate issues that concern the community are being neglected.

Voices POLITICS Friday, November 12, 2021 - 17:00

The statehood movement that led to the formation of Telangana in 2014 saw immense participation and contribution from various sections of people in the region, irrespective of caste and religion. They were brought together by a common vision to eradicate social, political, and economic injustices, and to bring about inclusive development. This was something they considered long overdue because of the perceived historical wrongs committed in the region by the Seemandhra people.

After the formation of Telangana, the Muslims living in the state were optimistic that decades-old injustices – such as lack of political representation and government jobs – would come to an end. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, and the ruling TRS party, had to some extent addressed their concerns during his first term through populist schemes like Shadi Mubarak (which provides Rs 1 lakh towards the marriage of women from poor families), Telangana Minorities Residential Educational Institutions Society (TMREIS), honorarium for Imams and Muezzins and overseas scholarships for minorities, among others.

However, the Muslims of the state still lack real empowerment and many feel that legitimate issues that concern the community are being continuously neglected by the ruling party. The government needs to give them their due proportional representation in the socio-political and socio-economic arena in order to alleviate their fears. 

How CM KCR has neglected Muslims during his second term

There has been a lack of Muslim representation when it comes to recent appointments in the state. On May 19, this year, the government-appointed senior IAS officer B Janardhan Reddy as Chairman – as well as seven other members – of the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC). But not a single Muslim was appointed to be a part of the prestigious constitutional body.  At the very least the government could have replaced the outgoing member, Dr Mohd Mateenuddin Quadri, with any eminent personality from the Muslim community. But this too was not done.

Further, on May 22, the TRS government had appointed Vice-Chancellors for 10 state universities across Telangana. It was shocking to note that no Muslims featured on this list.

Delay in the reconstitution of minority commissions and committees

There are numerous commissions, and committees in Telangana that deal with everything from providing economic support to the needy to safeguarding minority rights. For many of these bodies, the tenure of the chairman and the members have already ended. Yet, no action has been taken to reconstitute them.

> The Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation (TSMFC), extends economic support to minorities through subsidy schemes and provides training for women and youngsters to achieve financial independence. In March 2020, the tenure of the TSMFC Chairman, Syed Akbar Hussain ended. It's been more than 1.5 years, yet the government has not appointed a new chairman.

>The Telangana State Minorities Commission (TSMC) is crucial as it safeguards the rights of minorities and the statutory body has been provided for in the constitution and the laws enacted by the Parliament and the state Legislatures. The term of the TSMC Chairman and its members was completed in January 2021. Since then, the government has failed to designate members to this statutory body. The commission provides reports and studies on issues relating to the socio-economic and educational development of minorities. By ignoring the appointment of members to such a vital commission, the government is sending a wrong signal to the Muslim community.

>The tenure of both the Telangana state Haj Committee Chairman Masiullah and the Urdu Academy Chairman Rahimullah Ansari concluded in January 2021. The government has turned a blind eye when it comes to filling these posts, thereby impeding the workings of the respective offices.

Waqf land issue

The Telangana Waqf Board is the sole board in India in which the record room has been sealed from 2017 to date. On many occasions, CM KCR has said he will give judicial powers to the Waqf Board, but there has been no progress on this. As there have been serious allegations of encroachment of Waqf lands, a special committee was set up in 2014, led by SK Sinha, to review the lands. But a report has still not been submitted, despite the state Assembly speaker giving the committee a three-month deadline.

In 2016, the then secretary of minority welfare, Syed Omer Jaleel, had issued a government order for the constitution of district-wise Waqf Protection and Coordination Committees to protect the Waqf lands, but to date no such committees have been constituted. Further, nearly 400 Waqf litigations are pending in various courts of law. 

According to the second Waqf survey in 2001, there are about 40,000 Muslim endowment institutions across the state that are spread over 77,538 acres. The survey mentions that a staggering 57,423 acres have been encroached. The long-held demand by the Waqf activists for the CID to investigate the encroachments of Waqf lands is still awaited. And while CM KCR announced in early October, this year, that a CID probe would be conducted, it remains to be seen if he will actually follow through. 

No effort to promote Urdu

Urdu is the second official language of Telangana. However, no sincere effort has been taken by the government to promote and propagate the language. More than 500 Urdu teacher posts are lying vacant due to the non-availability of candidates in the reserved categories of SC, ST and BC in District Selection Committee-2008, 2012 and 2017 recruitment.

Hence, there is an acute shortage of teachers in Urdu-medium schools in the state, and many of the primary schools are functioning with a single teacher. The 1:10 teacher to pupil ratio should be maintained to promote Urdu education across Telangana. In September 2019, Sabitha Indra Reddy, Minister for Education, in a reply to the starred question asked in the state Assembly with regards to this, replied in written format that the government will initiate filling up the vacant seats under Rule 22 of the TS Subordinate Service Rules, however, no action has been initiated as yet. 

Lack of political representation

Out of 18 ministers that make up the cabinet of the TRS government, only one is a Muslim. Mohammed Aamir Shakil from Bodhan constituency is the lone Muslim MLA from the TRS party, however, he holds no portfolio. It is astonishing that even the Minority Welfare portfolio has not been given to someone from the notified six minority communities.

Despite a 14% Muslim population in the state, the TRS leadership has failed in ensuring at least 10 Muslim MLAs to the state Assembly. The party had only given two tickets to Muslim probables, Mohammed Aamir Shakil and Inayath Ali Baqri, the latter a dummy candidate who had unsuccessfully contested from the Bahadurpura constituency, which is an AIMIM bastion.

Similarly, the party has only three Muslim MLCs, out of whom two were elected and one was nominated. They are: Mohd Mahmood Ali (MLA quota) whose tenure is till 2025; Mohammed Fareeduddin (MLA quota), whose term ended on June 3, 2021; and Farooq Hussain (Governor quota), whose tenure is till May 2023.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission, in two notifications, said that MLC elections will be held in the state on November 29 and December 10, 2021, respectively. Under this:

>6 MLCs to be elected under the MLAs quota

>12 MLCs to be elected by the local authorities

>1 MLC by Governor (nominated)

Even as these two notifications were issued, only two Muslim MLCs remain from the TRS party: Mohd Mahmood Ali and Farooq Hussain. The party leadership is offering plum nominated posts to the defectors while sidelining cadre from the Muslim community despite their fall in the share of MLC seats.

Muslims in the state are perplexed by these moves and the mistrust against the government is increasing due to this. CM KCR needs to check this growing dissent.

The way forward

Considering all these facts, it is evident that there is increasing resentment among Muslims against the TRS leadership since the onset of KCR's second term. The CM should understand that the Muslims of Telangana are in desperate need of social, political, and economic upliftment. While it is very welcome that he has formulated welfare schemes such as Dalit Bandhu, he should look to empower the Muslims in the state on similar lines as well. 

CM KCR should also take note that in the recently concluded high voltage Huzurabad bye-polls, a good chunk of Muslims voted in favour of BJP candidate Eatala Rajender. And after the elevation of firebrand leader Revanth Reddy as Congress chief, a part of the Muslim vote bank might shift to the grand old party due to Reddy’s mass appeal. 

Furthermore, Telangana Congress also has Shabbir Ali and former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin on their side. While Shabbir Ali had won the hearts of Muslims in the then united AP through his relentless efforts for reservation, Azharuddin has had a massive cricket fan following across the state since the early 90s. 

Not only does the TRS party have to go up against all this, there is also emerging discontent within the party itself among the senior minority leaders who feel that the leadership has neglected them for a while now. They feel that genuine Muslim issues are not coming to the notice of the government because of their underrepresentation in the law-making process.

Not solving these issues could have far-reaching consequences for the TRS party in the 2023 state Legislative Assembly elections, eroding its voter base.

So, now is the time for CM KCR to pursue 12% reservation in jobs and educational institutions for Muslims, which was promised by him in his election manifesto after the formation of the Telangana state. This has been pending with the Union government since 2017. He should also at the very least give two MLC seats to members from the Muslim community. And allocate one of the MLCs with a portfolio. Further, CM KCR should also consider nominating one Rajya Sabha MP from the Muslim community, if any vacancy arises in the near future. By doing so, he can show that inclusiveness is a serious focus when it comes to the formation of a Bangaru Telangana.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

Shaik Shamir Arfath is a research scholar in Urdu literature from the University of Hyderabad. He writes on the promotion of Urdu literature and contemporary Muslim issues. Based in Hyderabad, he has previously written for Siasat and Etemaad news dailies.

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