Skip to main content

Indian Muslims' position being 'undermined' by new nationalism gripping the country

By Moin Qazi*
Muslims are the second-largest demographic of India, with nearly 14 per cent of the country’s population, or roughly 172 million people, but they are so marginalised that their presence in important public spheres is almost invisible. Most of them are poor, semi-literate and driven into ghettos.
Muslims continue to suffer economic deprivation. Their situation is so dire that, for them, economic reforms need precedence over all other amelioration policies. In fact, improvement in social and educational conditions as also the much-talked-about gender reforms can automatically follow as a byproduct of economic redemption.
On almost every measure of success – the number of Muslims in the IAS, the police and the Army; the number of Muslim-owned companies in the top 500 Indian firms; the percentage of Muslim CEOs or even, national newspaper editors – they lag far behind their statistical entitlements. And then there are millions of Muslims who live in abject poverty.
The backwardness of Muslims is depriving the country of one-fifth of its valuable talent. Economic problems cannot be solved with civil rights remedies but they could be relieved with public and private action that encourages economic redevelopment. The Government has been aggressively pursuing the agenda of reforms in the personal laws of Muslims alleging genuine concern for Muslim women.
Economic backwardness is a much harder and bitter reality for Muslims and the state can’t turn its eyes away, particularly when it is training so many telescopes on the community’s social issues. It will amount to questioning the purity of the nationalism of Muslims, the same way the upper castes have questioned the purity of spiritualism of the so-called backward castes.
Muslims have a duality in being Indians and Muslims, but they have been maintaining this identity with full fidelity. They have neither compromised nationalism nor abandoned religion. By keeping Muslims backward India is depriving itself of one fifth of its valuable talents. The economic problems cannot be solved with civil rights remedies, but they could be relieved with public and private action that encourages economic redevelopment.
The economic agenda is more urgent for the community than most of the reforms which the Government is contemplating. The whole chorus of gender reforms gives an impression that the civil code is the prime urgency and that it is a magic bullet for its multiple problems. Most Muslims see these social reforms as a subterfuge for deflecting attention from the most pressing discriminations that the community is facing on the economic front.
The mood among India’s Muslims is despondent and they see their position being undermined steadily by the new nationalism that has gripped the country. By passing the triple talaq bill, the Modi government has dared to effect changes in the Muslim personal law. 
 The bogey of a Uniform Civil Code has already raised its head again and the apprehensions of the Muslim orthodoxy about the possible radical changes to the Shariat Act of 1937 no longer appear farfetched. Its concern is pertinent because recent events demonstrate the complete breakdown of the consensus that had deemed that changes in personal laws would happen only when the community voiced a need for them.
Most Muslims see social reforms as subterfuge for deflecting attention from discrimination the community faces on economic front
The government owes an obligation to act. It makes both good economics and politics, if a fraction of its new economic gain can be used to correct the negative trajectory of Muslim reality in India. The relative economic condition of Muslims has suffered significantly compared to everyone else, in spite of spectacular growth in the country’s economy. 
Poor Muslims are much poorer than poor Hindus and can easily be bracketed with the lowest Hindu castes and Dalits. Muslims are stuck at the bottom of almost every economic or social heap.
Hindu chauvinism continues to drive India dangerously away from its pluralistic ethos it is trying to legitimize a combustible idea: that only followers of so-called Indic religions alone can be truly Indians .these regressive policies are seeding long-term domestic instability, undermining interfaith harmony, and tarnishing India’s reputation for tolerance.
The BJP governments both at the Centre and States constantly keep targeting Muslims with incendiary message encouraging and emboldening vigilante violence against them. Much of the anti-minority campaigns are underwritten by the state’s inaction and seeming bias.
The national government has passed several laws in recent years that have made life more difficult for religious minorities. This is further compounded by the brash majoritarian rhetoric and the BJP’s sectarian ethos which is grounded in polarizing social conflict between Hindus and Muslims.
Several local governments have also passed “anti-conversion” laws that make it illegal to convert people to a new religion. The ostensible purpose of the measures is to stop proselytization by Christians or to shield Hindus from Islam. But conversion has historically also provided members of lower castes a way out of the caste system’s repressive strictures. 
After suffering a setback in its messy attempt to identify migrants in Assam the government has come up with Citizenship Amendment Bill. These are all attempts to scare minorities and make life miserable for them. They all have a sinister message of an ethnic purge. 
The truth is that India is not at all under threat of being overrun by migrants. According to the Pew Research Center, foreign-born people in India account for less than 1% of the population. By contrast, the foreign-born account for 15% of the population in Germany, 14% in the US and 12% in France.
Instead of stoking ethnic tensions, a prudent approach would be to embrace the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, who declared that he was “proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.”
In the mid-2000s, the Government commissioned two studies. The Sachar Committee Report of 2006 and the Misra Commission Report of 2007 highlighted a high prevalence of discrimination towards Muslims and socio-economic deprivation among them as compared to other religious groups.
Almost none of the recommendations have been implemented by any of the Governments at the Centre. The Sachar report stated that Muslims have not “shared equally in the benefits” of India’s economic growth and are “seriously lagging behind in terms of most of the human development indicators.” Muslims have traditionally been craftsmen and the Hindus traders. 
Most craft skills have been overtaken by mechanisation which has rendered skills of most craftsmen obsolete. These people have lost their traditional livelihood. On the contrary Hindu traders and businessmen have prospered from the country’s booming economic growth.
According to a report compiled by “The Economist”:
“The Sachar Report broadly showed Muslims to be stuck at the bottom of almost every economic or social heap. Though heavily urban, Muslims had a particularly low share of public (or any formal) jobs, school and university places, and seats in politics. They earned less than other groups, were more excluded from banks and other finance, spent fewer years in school and had lower literacy rates. Pitifully few entered the army or the police force.”
The Post Sachar Evaluation Committee headed by Prof Amitabh Kundu, in its report of 2014, highlighted the fact that the state of Muslim education is a matter of great concern. The Graduation Attainment Rates (GARs) and Mean Years of Schooling (MYS) amongst Muslims are very low, and dropout rates are very high the Committee stated. Kundu has documented that, although caste-based discrimination has fallen considerably in the last few decades, discrimination against Muslims is on the rise.
Despite an influx of people into urban centers across India, the rate of Muslim migration is decreasing, because they are largely shut out of the labor market. Their names are also frequently removed from voter rolls. These events can have long term adverse effect for the community which in turn will have overall impact in the larger national economy. It can also engineer inter generational economic stress.
Muslims have traditionally been craftsmen and Hindus traders. Most craft skills have been overtaken by mechanization which has rendered skills of most Muslim craftsmen as obsolete. These people have lost their traditional livelihood. On the contrary Hindu traders and businessmen have prospered from the country’s booming economic growth. Over the last six years, the gap between the two communities has further widened, says a comparative study of two surveys of the government.
The NSSO Report (Periodic Labour Force Survey – PLFS-2017-2018), conducted between July 2017- June 2018, reveals that in comparison to Dalits, Hindu OBCs and Hindu upper castes, the percentage of Muslim youths (Age 21-29) who have graduated is lowest. The gap between Muslim and Dalit is 4 percentage points. Six years back (2011-2012), the gap between the two had been just 1 percentage point.
Besides Dalits, Muslims have also fallen behind their Hindu OBCs and Hindu Upper Caste peers – from 7 percentage points to 11 in the case of Hindu OBCs. The data about 2011-2012 is based on NSS-Employment and Unemployment Situation in India – EUS 2011-2012.
The Muslim community’s best position is in South India. Tamil Nadu has 36 per cent Muslim graduates followed by Kerala (28 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (21 per cent) and Karnataka (18 per cent). In these states, the community is giving a close competition to SCs.
The Muslim community has not only fewer graduates compared to other communities, the percentage of their youths currently in educational institutions is also low. In the year 2017-18, only 39 percent of Muslim youths in the age group of 15-24 were in educational institutions while this percentage was 44 among Dalits, 51 among Hindu OBCs and 59 among Hindu Upper Castes.
The report shows that 31 per cent of Muslim youths are neither in education, nor training or employment. The SCs have fewer such youths (26 per cent), followed by Hindu OBCs (23 per cent) and Hindu Upper Castes (17 per cent).
However, there are several ways in which the backwardness of the community can be addressed. Since the Constitution and the courts have ruled out religion to be any sort of criteria for assessing backwardness, minority groups were not identified as “backward” for the purpose of special safeguards for the disadvantaged.
Since the Constitution and courts ruled out religion to be a criterion for assessing backwardness, minority groups were not identified as backward
There are three main reasons advanced: First, it was not compatible with secularism. Second, since Muslims don’t have a caste system it was difficult to use the benchmark of social backwardness for providing them special relief. Third, it would be antithetical to the principles of national unity.
In India, reservations have been formulated on the principles of social justice enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution provides for reservation for historically marginalised communities, now known as backward castes. But the Constitution does not define any of the categories, identified for the benefit of reservation. One of the most important bases for reservation is the interpretation of the word “class.”
Experts argue that social backwardness is a fluid and evolving category, with caste as just one of the markers of discrimination. Gender, culture, economic conditions, educational backwardness, official policies among other factors can influence social conditions and could be the cause of deprivation and social backwardness.
Moreover, the notion of social backwardness itself could undergo change as the political economy transforms from a caste-mediated, closed system to a more open-ended, globally integrated and market-determined system marked by high mobility and urbanisation. We are seeing this transformation at a much more exponential pace than our Constitution-makers may have visualised.
In one of its recent and well known judgment, the Supreme Court has made an important point about positive discrimination in India. Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman of the Supreme Court said:
“An affirmative action policy that keeps in mind only historical injustice would certainly result in under protection of the most deserving backward class of citizens, which is constitutionally mandated. It is the identification of these new emerging groups that must engage the attention of the state.”
We must actively consider evolving new benchmarks for assessing backwardness, reducing reliance on its caste-based definition. This alone can enable newer groups to get the benefits of affirmative action through social reengineering or else, the tool of affirmative action will breed new injustice. Muslims can become eligible for at least some forms of positive discrimination among new “backward” groups.
India has 3,743 “backward” castes and sub-castes making up about half the population. So the potential for caste warfare is endless. The result, British journalist Edward Luce wrote in his book "In Spite of the Gods", is “the most extensive system of patronage in the democratic world.” With such a rich gravy train, it’s no wonder the competition turns lethal.
Citizenship Amendment Bill is an attempt to scare minorities and make life miserable for them with a sinister message of an ethnic purge
The pervasive discrimination of Muslims in India must compel us to re-examine facile assumptions about social backwardness stemming from historically over-simplified categories. In a larger landscape of increasing communalisation, the Government should economically and socially empower the community so that it comes out with its own appropriate solutions for overall social reforms.
All political parties at the helm of the Government have resorted to “strategic secularism” to secure a so-called Muslim vote bank — an approach that has stoked resentment among the country’s Hindu majority while doing little to improve Muslims’ well-being. India’s Muslims will be hit particularly hard, with further social and political marginalisation undermining their economic prospects.
The founder of Banaras Hindu University Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya also symbolized the multiculturism of India. Malaviya declared:
“India is not a country of the Hindus only. It is a country of the Muslims, the Christians and the Parsees too. The country can gain strength and develop itself only when the people of India live in mutual goodwill and harmony.”
Writing in the quiet seclusion of a British prison in 1944 (his ninth term of imprisonment for revolting against the British India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru contemplated “the diversity and unity of India:
“It is tremendous (he wrote); it is obvious; it lies on the surface and anybody can see it... It is fascinating to find how the Bengalis, the Canarese, the Malayalis, the Sindhis, the Punjabis, the Pathans, the Kashmiris, the Rajputs, and the great central block comprising of Hindustani-speaking people, have retained their particular characteristics for hundreds of years, have still more or less the same virtues and failings of which old traditions of record tell us, and yet have been throughout these ages distinctively Indian, with the same national heritage and the same set of moral and mental qualities.”
Nehru added almost lyrically in his great book, the ‘Discovery of India’ the following sentiment:
“Some kind of a thread of unity has occupied the mind of India since the dawn of civilization. That unity was not conceived as something imposed from outside, a standardization of externals or even of beliefs. It was something deeper and, within its fold, the widest tolerance of beliefs and customs was practiced and every variant acknowledged and even encouraged.”
Given the size of India’s Muslim population, this is bound to drag down overall economic development. It’s absurd to try to consign the great multiplicity of our lives to one single identity, even one as resplendent as the Indian tradition.
Instead of a constant search for a uniform and standardised culture, which can homogenise the entire population, we must strive for a stable and model democracy -- where the colours in the painter’s palette find full expression. Therein lies the vibrancy of a civilisation and the fulfillment of the pluralist promises of our Constitution.
Instead of using a binary of Muslims and non-Muslims, the Government must adjust its lens and address the economic problems of the community. Muslims have no propensity for violence or anti-national sentiments. Their faith encourages peaceful coexistence and mutual respect -- liberal Muslims have given ample proof of this. For India to retain its vitality as a plural society and vibrant civilisation, this imbalance between Muslims and others must be recognised and addressed. 
---
*Development sector expert

Comments

truthaboutislam said…
There are In Islamic Sharia Law and order defined for almost every religion in the society and Islam’s law steps ahead from those in delivering solution rather advising not to commit bad deeds, Likewise sharia laws bestow solution and recommend how crimes can be minimised. And Continuous debates are being held about Polygamy in Islam, saying that Muslims can Mary more than one wife deliberately. Actually, what Quran says regarding this is, in Sura an-Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 3, Indirectly Islam discourages men to marry multiple wives as it is clearly mentioned if you can do justice to all, only then it is allowed.

TRENDING

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

'True decolonisation move': Demand to name new Parliament building after Ambedkar

By Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*  In recent weeks, there has been a demand for the new Parliament building being constructed on the revamped Central Vista in New Delhi to be named after the architect of the Constitution and anti-caste leader BR Ambedkar. On September 14, the Telangana Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to name the new Parliament building after Ambedkar. The Bharatiya Janata Party was absent during the debate about the resolution. The next day, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led government declared that the new secretariat in the centre of Hyderabad would be named after Ambedkar. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao added that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to name the new Parliament building in Delhi “Ambedkar Parliament”. The demand is finding resonance among civil society groups too and has led to social media discussions as well as public mobilisation.  But two questions arise: Should a Parliament that makes laws for a nation over a

Government 'fails to take up' Indian migrants' unpaid wages issue with other countries

By Rafeek Ravuther, Chandan Kumar, Dharmendra Kumar*  The migrant workers were one of the most vulnerable sections during the pandemic. India experiences large-scale movement of migrants internally and internationally. After the outbreak of the pandemic, migrant workers continued to face injustice especially in getting wages in expedited manner. In the international context, India, the home of 9 million cross-border temporary labour migrants, carried out the largest repatriation exercise ‘Vande Bharat Mission’. Even though the Indian government addressed the immediate requirement of repatriation, it failed to understand and recognise their post-arrival grievances, like back wages, social protection etc. Recently many workers were deported from the middle- east region. Amidst the establishment of grievance mechanisms such as Consular Services Management System (MADAD) and helplines in Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendra (PBSK), the unresolved grievances remain high. The number of unresolv