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“Othered” No More: Firhad Hakim Praises West Bengal’s Minority Upliftment Efforts

But many from the community believe that a lot more can be done by the present government when it comes to minorities’ representation in government jobs

Kolkata: What Bengal thinks today, the rest of India thinks tomorrow when it comes to the State government protecting the rights of the minority,” said Firhad Hakim, one of the minority faces of the Trinamool Congress, along the sidelines of a symposium organized by the West Bengal Minorities Commission (WBMC) to commemorate World Minority Rights Day.

During his 13-minute-long speech, the TMC leader reiterated that World Minority Rights Day was a day to ensure that minority rights are protected. “I believe that the biggest shame for West Bengal was the Sachar Committee report. It showed how the minorities were exploited and ‘othered.’ I thank our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for instilling a sense of ‘us’ among the minorities,” he claimed.

The minister mentioned that the good execution of policies like Kanyashree, Lakshmi Bhandar, and Rupashree by the state government has helped uplift the socio-economic status of minorities in Bengal. He pointed out how there was greater representation from minority communities, especially Muslims, in education and government jobs in Bengal. “Minority rights are limited to West Bengal. Today, minorities don’t even have the right to live in many places across India. In such states, the government decides what one eats or wears and how one needs to practice one’s religion. We need to protest against such practices and violations,” said Hakim.

But, the claims made by Hakim were not exactly matched by data. Many from the community still believe that a lot more can be done by the present state government when it comes to minorities’ representation in government jobs.

According to data shared by Sabir Ahamed, the national research coordinator at the Pratichi Trust, set up by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Muslim representation in state government jobs stood at 6.03 per cent in 2019. However, Hakim countered the data presented at the symposium by saying that the pre-COVID data and more updated ones would be able to give a clearer picture.

The data collected by Ahamed through RTI also showed that the representation in education was on the rise and that women were doing better in higher education compared to their male counterparts. Ahamed, during his address, also stressed the need for higher Muslim representation in the State Assembly.

“Minorities should understand the ‘politics of presence.’ If their community members are not present inside the house, then who will table their woes and concerns?” stressed Ahamed.

He also mentioned that despite the rising graph of Muslim representation in government jobs, one couldn’t ignore the slow rise. “The fact that almost 95 per cent of the minorities fall under the category of OBC makes it difficult for them.”

Ahamed Hassan Imran, chairman of West Bengal Minority Commission, stressed the need for the community and community leaders to come together to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

Imran spoke about how minorities are progressing under Mamata govt regime. While he spoke about how muslim girls clad in hijab are progressing academically, he raised concern for hijabi women being denied admit cards for the constable recruitment exam.

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