On the Persistent Political Under-Representation of Muslims in India

Law and Ethics of Human Rights 1 (1):76-133 (2007)
Abstract
This Paper is divided into three sections. In the first section I provide a brief historical overview of Hindu-Muslim relations in India and of the condition of Indian Muslims today. I conclude by claiming that Indian Muslims are a marginalized minority who have been persistently underrepresented in political institutions, particularly in the Indian Parliament. This section is important for those who are less informed about these issues—and I assume that most readers fall in this category. In the second section, I examine the case for political representation for Muslims. This was a much debated issue in pre-independent India. It was debated with subtlety and in considerable detail in the Constituent Assembly debates on the Indian constitution. However, with the partition of the country and the formation of the separate state of Pakistan, all debate on the political representation of Muslims ceased. I examine the merits and demerits of the case for the political representation of Indian Muslims. I also attempt a brief explanation of why this issue has virtually disappeared from the public arena in India. I conclude in the section that although political representation of Muslims qua Muslims is desirable, it is still unfeasible in the prevailing situation in India. In other words, I would support the recommendation to the Indian State that political rights not to be granted to any religious community. If political theory was to remain a handmaiden of state policy, then the matter ends right here. However, since I believe that political theory must think for the long run and design just institutions and policies for the future, and since, there is, I claim, no principled objection to the political representation of Muslims, in the third and final section I briefly outline which of the several electoral mechanisms are best suited to ensure fair political representation for Muslims in the future. In my view, the principle of fair political representation for Indian Muslims is best fulfilled by a complex mechanism consisting of preferential voting in multi-member constituencies with intra-party quotas in proportion to the overall population of Muslims in the country
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