By Mumtaz Alam FalahiNew Delhi, (TwoCircles): In a move that may dilute the whole campaign for reservation for entire Muslims as the most backward minority community entity, the All India Shia Personal Law Board Sunday demanded separate reservation for Shias in assemblies and Parliament claiming that they constitute 5 crore of the Muslim population in India, and yet have been unrepresented in legislative bodies. “The major problem our community is facing is political wilderness. We are ignored everywhere, be it membership of Parliament and state assemblies, appointments on key Govt. positions, nomination to different Boards and Corporations or selection in armed forces and the police. It is very surprising that a community which numbers around five crore in the country is being ignored in such a way as it has no existence in this country,” said Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar, president, All India Shia Personal Law Board, in his presidential speech at the Annual Session of the Board at Aiwan-e-Ghalib in New Delhi today. The Board has demanded Shia representation in Parliament and state assemblies by reserving some seats for Shias. “This Annual Session of the All India Shia Personal Law Board demands the Government that to ensure Shia representation in Parliament and state assemblies, reserve some seats for Shias with the same spirit as was shown in the case of Dalits and women,” the Board resolved at the end of the session. The Board has also demanded representation of Shias in the Union Cabinet. Demanding separate management of Shia wakf properties, All India Shia Personal Law Board urged the central government to constitute a statutory Wakf Protection Commission on the pattern of Minority Commission or Human Rights Commission, having judicial powers to keep a watch on Shia wakf properties. The Board also demanded constitution of Shia wakf boards in all states like those in Bihar and UP. Like Haj subsidy, the Board demanded subsidy for Shia pilgrims going to Shia holy places in countries like Iran and Iraq. The Shias in India were availing the subsidy till 1970. “The subsidy which was given to the pilgrims to Iran and Iraq till 1970 should immediately be restored,” demanded the Board. Also, they demanded the Indian government to ensure that Shia Hajis who go to Saudi Arabia through Central Haj Committee perform Haj according to Shia Fiqh. Besides these issues, in his 30-minute speech Board president Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar put across Board’s views on different national and international issues. On proposed Central Madrasa Board, Maulana Athar said: “We are opposed to government madrasa board and do not want any interference in the running of madrasas.” But he called upon the community to do madrasa reform on their own. “We want that people who are running madrasas sit together and formulate their own syllabus and do necessary reforms in their systems which are the need of the hour,” said the Maulana. Talking on Kashmir issue, he condemned Organization of Islamic Countries for appointing their envoy in Kashmir saying that “external suggestions can only aggravate our problems and not solve them.” “We should be aware of the conspiracies which are being hatched by some hostile countries to defame India by presenting a pathetic picture of Indian Muslims as an excuse to interfere in our internal matters. We should be worry of organisations like OIC. We have to unite our ranks and solve our problems internally.” At the end of his speech Maulana Athar read out the three-point national policy of the Board: Love the human beings, love your religion and love your country – protect humanity, protect your faith and protect your motherland. While condemning terrorism he appealed to “all heads of Muslim countries and responsible ulema of all sects of Islam to raise their voices against extremism, religious coursing and killing of innocent people so that the demon of terrorism could be contained.” The All India Shia Personal Law Board was formed in January 2005 on the ground that Shias were poorly represented in the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The Board has since been holding annual convention in different cities. However, four years after its formation the big question the Board is facing today is: how much representative it is of the Shia community in India. Can it be said the chief representative body of Shias in India? “Not at all,” said Hasan Ali Rajani, a founder member of the Board, adding the Board leadership could not bring stalwarts of Shia community to the Board. Rajani belongs to Khoja, a section of Shias in India, and hails from Ahmedabad. “Look at this program. While they are holding convention in Delhi, they could not gather even 500 people. This exposes how much grip they have on the community,” he said talking to TwoCircles.net on the sidelines. Rajani was earlier one of the listed speakers of the Board but no more. He also alleged that the Board leadership is now more focused on promoting their self interests rather than that of the community. Rajani also blasted out the Board’s claim that there are 5 crore Shias in India. “They could be around 60-70 lakh,” he suggests. Are the claim of 5 crore strength and demand for reservation inter-related? “Yes,” he says, “and this is just to advance their own interest.” Some from the audience noted with pain that the Shia Personal Law Board was little talking about personal laws of the Shia community and how endangered or safe they are. “It is surprising that that the All India Shia Personal Law Board is all focused on politics, and is little talking about personal laws,” pointed out Yogindar Sikand, eminent writer and columnist. Another missing point was absence of women in the convention. There was no Shia woman on the stage (among leaders) or in the audience. The Board was formed with the basic demand of representation but it did little care about representation of women its meetings and programs.