Muslims in Meghalaya seeking 4-pc Job Quota

GUWAHATI: In Meghalaya, a largely community-based organisation has sought for 4% of the jobs allotted to Muslims. 

In a letter to Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, the Anti-Corruption League (ACL), which represents the 'Desi' Muslims who live in the plains belt of Meghalaya's Garo Hills region, outlined its proposal. The letter was delivered on May 30, the day the Meghalayan administration, which is run by the National People's Party, reconstituted a Committee to talk about implementing a reservation roster system and the State Reservation Policy. 

The Anti-Corruption League  said that 20% of people were non-tribal when Meghalaya was separated from Assam in 1972. The Desi Muslims, it added, "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" despite having been a part of Assam and the Assamese culture for generations. 

The League said that the non-tribals were promised equal opportunities and fair play by the tribal leaders during the historic tripartite meeting between Central government representatives, non-tribal leadership led by the then MDC (member of district council) Akramuz Zaman, and tribal leadership led by Captain Williamson A. Sangma (Meghalaya's first Chief Minister). 
"It was also promised that our rights and aspirations, as well as our growth and development, will be given equal priority and importance as that of the tribal people of Meghalaya", it added,  regretting the fact that the guarantees were never kept. 

The ACL stated that the fundamental concept of reservation is an affirmative action by the State towards a group of people who were denied opportunities or endured inequalities in the past, pointing out that the current reservation system not only denies the deserving but has also produced a group of people who are subject to injustice and pervasive inequalities. 

Minor tribes feel belittled: The three matrilineal communities of Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia receive an 80% quota for jobs under Meghalaya's 51-year-old job reservation policy. The Khasi-Jaintia people collectively and the Garos receive an equal share of the quota.    15% of the total is set aside for those in the unreserved categories, with another 5% going to "other minor tribes." 

The Garos have scarcely been able to use their 40% quota because they are both numerically and educationally less advanced than the Khasi-Jaintia people. This prompted one Z.R. Marak to file a complaint with the High Court of Meghalaya, claiming that other tribes were abusing the quota set aside for the Garo people by using it up. 

On April 21, the court ordered the government of Meghalaya to implement a roster system that would only apply to entry-level positions. The newly founded Voice of the People Party (VPP) and several pressure groups in the region saw the roster system as a benefit for the Garos. 

VPP President Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit went on an indefinite hunger strike a week ago to demand that the reservation policy be reviewed and that the roster system be implemented prospectively rather than retroactively. 

Under pressure, the administration reorganised a committee with 12 members to talk about the roster system and reservation policy. Each political party is represented on the Committee, save from two senior government officials. 

The Meghalaya Indigenous Minority Tribes' Forum (MIMTF) objected to the removal of the members of the minor tribes from the panel, while the ACL wanted inclusion of the Desi Muslims in the Committee. The Rabha, Bodo, Hajong, Koch, and Mann tribes are represented by the MIMTF. 

Pramod Koch, a member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, remarked, "We are surprised that no invitation or intimation was given to the indigenous minority tribes."  

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