Maharashtra: Former BJP MLC Pasha Patel Applies For 'Kunbi Muslim' Status Amid Reservation Debate

Maharashtra: Former BJP MLC Pasha Patel Applies For 'Kunbi Muslim' Status Amid Reservation Debate

Muslim farmers in Maharashtra may wear a new community identity as Muslim Kunbis after Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil's statement that Muslims should also be able to access reservations for Kunbis, a Maratha sub-caste, in Other Backward Classes quotas.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 11:37 PM IST
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Maharashtra: Former BJP MLC Pasha Patel Applies For 'Kunbi Muslim' Status Amid Reservation Debate |

Mumbai: Muslim farmers in Maharashtra may wear a new community identity as Muslim Kunbis after Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil's statement that Muslims should also be able to access reservations for Kunbis, a Maratha sub-caste, in Other Backward Classes quotas.

Former Bharatiya Janata Party's Member of the Legislative Council, Pasha Patel, who identifies as a farmer, said he has applied at the tehsildar's office in Nilanga, Latur, for documents certifying him as a Kunbi Muslim. He said that he did so after Jarange-Patil's remark. "When the government begins the process for Kunbi reservation, more Muslims will apply," said Patel, who was with Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmer's organisation, and formerly with the Nationalist Congress Party.

Patel said that economic distress in rural areas has led to a clamour among different groups for reservation in government jobs and seats in educational institutions. "Cities are prospering while villages are languishing. Farmers who think they are not getting fair compensation for their produce will take to agitation for caste-based reservations," said Patel, now chairman of the State Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. The post has the status of a cabinet minister

Patel said that though his family identity as Sayyad, a group that traces their lineage to Prophet Mohammad, they have been farmers for nearly a thousand years, having received land grants from a local king. "I do not need more proof than that my family has been agriculturists for generations," said Patel. "

Unlike Momin-Ansaris, who are weavers like the Hindu julahas, and Qureshis, the Muslim equivalents of Khatiks or animal butchers, Muslim farmers are not organised as a group. "I will not get a reservation as a Sayyad and do not need the benefit, but if it helps my community I am a Kunbi."

Patel's application for a Kunbi certificate is under process, however, OBC organisations said there is no barrier for Muslim farmers to secure a Kunbi certificate. Mehmud Pervez Ansari of All India Muslim OBC Organisation said it has been possible for Muslim farmers in Maharashtra to get Kunbi certificates since January 1983 when the state issued a Government Resolution that religion was no longer a bar in getting an OBC certificate. Reservations restricted to six Muslim groups, including Momins and Qureshis, were opened up for other groups. "People seeking this certificate should prove that farming is their ancestral occupation. Muslims do not have this proof, so the government has issued a special circular that allows sarpanch or village heads to look at a family's ancestral occupation and give them a certificate. The circular was updated for city dwellers," said Ansari.

Saeed Hameed, journalist, and author, said that unlike Momins and Qureshis, Muslim farmers have not documented themselves as Kunbis. "There was no need so far. Many Muslim groups that share ancestral occupations with Hindu castes share their lifestyle and language. Why should they not get a reservation? Some Muslim fishermen in Konkan are similar to Hindu Kolis who get reservations."

Maharashtra has 346 groups listed under the OBC category and Kunbis are 83rd on the list. Among Muslim groups, the Momins, Qureshis, Rangrez (fabric dyers), lohars or blacksmiths, tambolis (paan leaf dealers), bhistis (water carriers), and sutars or carpenters are on the list. Of them, 75 to 80% are Momins and Qureshis, said Ansari.

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