‘What wrong have we done’, ‘United we stand divided we fall’, ‘Anglo Indians Identification of being Indian’, were some of the placards carried by a group of Anglo Indian (AI) community members Friday near Beach Railway station in Chennai to show their dissent against the Centre’s decision for not extending the constitutional provision which assures them specially reserved seats in the Parliament and legislative assemblies of the state.
The Constitution Bill (126th Amendment) seeks to extend the reservation quota for Schedule Tribes/Schedule castes communities for the next ten years but at the same time, it removes the provision to extend the nomination of Anglo Indian communities in the central and state assemblies. The representatives of the AI communities are protesting on the streets to extend the special reservation till January 2030.
Representatives of 10 major Anglo Indian associations, comprising present and former ex-parliamentarians and MLAs met in Kolkata last week and have planned to form core committees to conduct state and nationwide protests. The community members have also decided to light a candle at their homes every Friday across the country pressing the Centre to accept their demand.
A 12-member delegation from various state associations has sought an appointment to meet the President, Prime Minister and Home Minister to present a memorandum seeking an extension of the special reservation.
Dr. Augustine Roy Rozario, Vice-President, Federations of Anglo-Indian Associations in India says the community hasn’t progressed in all these years as opposed to the government claims to be considered ineligible for special reservation. “In the statement of Objects and Reasons for the Constitution Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stated ‘Although the SC/SCT has progressed in the last 70 years, the reason which weighed with the constituent assembly in making provision with regard to the special reservation of seats have not ceased to exist.’ However, the same yardstick was not applied to us. The condition of the community remains the same as it was six-seven years ago. Lack of education, unemployment still exists. We feel threatened by the cabinet decision to take away our rights,” he said.
Rozario further added that they are a 4 lakh-strong community as opposed to the minister’s claim that they are only a community of 296 members.
“We are close to 40,000 in Tamil Nadu alone and overall we are 4 lakh strong. The minister has calculated the size of our community based on the 2011 census in which there was no separate column for us. We were all marked under the category of Christians, though it is our religion, we are a separate minority. More than 3 lakh people in our community have mentioned English as their mother tongue, no other community in our country has English as their mother tongue, and this is a proof for the government that we are not a small population. We need to have our representatives in the houses to resolve our issues. PM has always said he stands for minorities, we hope the government will take all these factors into account and extend our reservation,” he added.
Dr. Denzil J Godin, the nominated AI MLA of Uttar Pradesh, who had met Cabinet Ministers Rajnath Singh and Mukthar Abbas Naqvi, hopes the ministry will consider their request. “In the UP assembly, I said that the Anglo Indian community are concerned because of the wrong numbers put forth in the cabinet. If we consider the number of AI schools in India, that itself will be more than 300. Each school would have at least 25 to 30 members and those members will have three-four family members, so if you calculate all these things that itself tells the whole story. In Lucknow itself, there are 500 registered AI members. The state assemblies should have been considered by the Centre before passing the act. Our community runs so many social welfare institutions, we contribute to the nation much more than any other community. We are confident that the government will realise the error and rectify it,” he added.
Dr. Beatrix D’Souza, a former member of Parliament and a person who had been working tirelessly for the rights of the Anglo Indian community, said they still hope that the government will extend the special reservation for the AI community. “We haven’t given up (on the bill). Before it was discussed in the parliament, the law minister did say that the government may revisit the bill. We had a big meeting in Kolkata last week, we are negotiating with the government to renew the nomination. We are awaiting their response,” she said.
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