Are Muslims In India Appeased?
By Tomichan Matheikal
23 February, 2009
Appeasement of the minority communities in India is what allegedly drives the adrenalin of the menacingly increasing number of Sangh Parivar outfits. The ire of these outfits is usually directed against the Muslim communities since they are said to be constantly "appeased" by various governments, both at the Centre and in the states. In the last few years the Christians too have incurred the wrath of the "majority". This article examines the issue of Muslim appeasement since that community has been at the worst receiving end of the minority-hatred spawned by the Parivar outfits.
A Committee headed by Justice Rajindar Sachar was instituted by the Prime Minister's Office in 2005 to study the socio-economic conditions of the Indian Muslims, and the Committee submitted its report on 30 Nov 2006. Let me highlight some of the findings of the Committee:
· The literacy rate among Muslims is far below the national average. 25% of Muslim children in the 6-14 year age group have either never attended school or have dropped out. Expansion of educational opportunities since Independence has not much benefitted the Indian Muslims. In premier colleges only one out of 25 under-graduate students and one out of 50 post-graduate students is a Muslim. Unemployment rate among Muslim graduates is the highest among all socio-religious communities. Only 3% of Muslim children among the school going age go to the Madarsas.1
· Though the calumny against Muslims is deep-rooted in India that they prefer to send their children to Madarsas rather than schools providing mainstream education, the Committee found that the access to government schools for Muslim children is limited. There is non-availability of schools within easy reach for girls at lower levels. The Committee also pointed out that the affirmative action taken for the uplift of the SCs and STs has "reaped at least some advantages" and similar affirmative action is required in the case of Indian Muslims too.
· There is discrimination against Muslim workers. The participation of Muslims in the professional and managerial cadre is low. Muslim workers are the most vulnerable as they are often deprived of written contracts of social security benefits. Muslim regular workers get lower daily earnings in both public and private jobs compared to other socio-religious communities.
· Banks are wary of providing loans to Muslims. The average amount of bank loan disbursed to the Muslims is 2/3 of the amount disbursed to other minorities and in some cases it is half. Some banks have identified a number of Muslim concentration areas as negative geographical zones where bank credit and other facilities are not generally provided.
· Jobs: The presence of Muslims in the IAS is 3%, 1.8% in the IFS and 4% in the IPS, though 14% of the Indian population is Muslim. The Muslim community has a representation of only 4.5% in Indian Railways and 98.7% of that meagre representation are positioned at lower levels. Representation of Muslims is very low in the universities and banks. In no state does the representation of Muslims in the government departments match their population share. Their share among police constables is only 6%, in health 4.4%, and in transport 6.5%.
· Most shockingly, the Committee also found that there is some truth in the allegation about a systematic conspiracy to deny Indian Muslims any meaningful political participation. For example, in states like Bihar, UP, (both where the two Yadavs – Laloo Prasad and Mulayam Singh – are supposed to be appeasing the Muslims) and West Bengal, "Muslim concentration assembly constituencies (are) declared as 'reserved' constituencies where only SC candidates can contest elections." (Muslims are not SCs.)
The results of a survey conducted among Indian Muslims were published in CounterCurrents by Imran Ali and Yoginder Sikand show that various governments "took little or no heed to these suggestions [made by various commissions], using the commissions simply as vote-grabbing gimmicks in order to give the impression of being serious about Muslim 'backwardness', but, in fact, doing precious little about it."
The survey shows that the economic condition of the Indian Muslims is pathetic indeed. "30.4% reported an annual household income of less than Rs.10,000, 24.4% between Rs.10,001-Rs20,000, 7.5% between Rs.20,001-Rs.30,000, 3.8% between Rs.30,001-Rs.40,000, 1% between Rs.40.001-Rs.50,000 and 5.6% above Rs.50,000.... a significant 27.6% live in jhuggis in slums.... 46.1% respondents live in one-room houses..."
If the Indian Muslims were "appeased" by various governments why is their economic condition so pathetic? The answer is that they were not appeased; but only made to look like so! Vested interests had ulterior motives in doing that.
Vote bank politics is the arch villain among the motives found in Indian politics. When the Mandal recommendations on reservations were implemented they were to benefit the backward communities among Hindus. 27% of the central government jobs were to be reserved for the category called OBCs (Other Backward Communities). When the Mandal recommendations were published the Congress government at the Centre, headed by Indira Gandhi, ignored it. Since it would be an electoral hara-kiri to directly oppose the recommendations, the BJP chose to divert the attention of the gullible public by engineering the Rath Yatra for Babri demolition. The National Front government headed by V P Singh implemented the recommendations in 1989. Who was V P Singh appeasing by implementing the recommendations? Not the Muslims; they had nothing to gain from Mandal. It was the Hindu backward communities who were being "appeased". About 20% of the population in North India are upper caste Hindus. Their interests were being undermined by Mandal. It is they who led the violent protests against Mandal recommendations; against the less privileged sections of their own religion. Was this 20% population upholding the interests of the majority in India? That's a different question anyway.
Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav were eager to implement Mandal recommendations because they were thus "appeasing" the OBC vote bank in their respective states. The Yadavs constituted about 10% of their population. The Muslim population too shared the same percentage. These 20% (10% Yadavs and 10% Muslims) along with the OBCs would ensure about 40% of the votes; and 40% of votes are sufficient for any party to come to power in the Indian democratic system.2 Thus the two Yadav leaders were ensuring their victory in the electoral arena by "appeasing" the OBCs and appearing to be appeasing the Muslims.
Undoubtedly there have been stray episodes like the Shah Bano case where the Muslims were appeased, or again apparently appeased. Shah Bano was again the result of the vote bank politics that Rajiv Gandhi succumbed to. Regarding the issue of personal laws, however, the advice of Mani Shankar Aiyar is the most sane I have come across so far: The personal laws of any community are their internal matter and they should work to reform it from within. Reformation cannot be imposed from outside. "Equally," says Aiyar, "the fact of a minority being a minority warrants special measures in favour of protecting its minority character." "To impose reform in such matters is to force a minority community into a majoritarian mould. That, precisely, is communalism."3
What do the Indian Muslims think of their situation in India? The following quotes may help us understand that.
Jurist V M Tarkunde who studied the situation of Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir in 1990 wrote: "The Muslims allege that they are being killed and destroyed because they are Muslims."4
"Discrimination in various walks of life and police repression and often active collaboration and instigation by state authorities during communal riots further demoralised Muslims, caused loss of confidence in secular forces and resulted in withdrawal symptoms and a siege mentality."5
"Politics of hate gave birth to top terror commander," says an 8-column headline in The Hindu dated Feb 23, 2008. The report says that Mohammad Ismail Riyaz Shahbandri, known better today as Riyaz Bhatkal, a key commander of the Indian Mujahideen networks, was led to terrorism by such acts of violence against Indian Muslims as the Gujarat communal pogrom. Riyaz was a civil engineer. His case is an example that the best of minds can be vitiated by the venal communal approaches taken by certain right-wing political parties and groups.
What is needed today in India is stop making irresponsible statements like 'Muslims are appeased' and help the community develop better so that they join the mainstream and live in peace and harmony with the mainstream communities. That's not impossible. A sizeable population of Muslims in Kerala (25% of the State's population) have lived in harmonious relationship with other communities (until the BJP began to make a strong foothold in the state!). The socio-economic condition of the Muslims in Kerala is far better than that of their counterparts in other parts of India. Socio-economic development is the best remedy for most communal problems; hatred and false propaganda are the biggest stumbling blocks.
1. "One reason for the misconception that the majority of Muslim children are enrolled in Madarsas is that people do not distinguish between Madarsas and Maktabs. While Madarsas provide education (religious and/or regular), Maktabs are neighbourhood schools, often attached to mosques, that provide religious education to children who attend other schools to get 'mainstream' education. Thus Maktabs provide part-time religious education and are complementary to the formal educational institutions." [Sachar Report, p. 98-99
2. India After Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha, Picador, 2008, p. 610
3. Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist, Penguin India, 2006, p. 202 & 201. [Emphasis added]
4. Quoted in Guha, p. 624