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India Muslims...Unfulfiled Promise

Published: 11/03/2012 01:18:30 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Suffering decades of social and economic neglect, India's Muslims are complaining of unfulfilled promises by politicians, leaving them in abjec (more)

CAIRO - Suffering decades of social and economic neglect, India's Muslims are complaining of unfulfilled promises by politicians, leaving them in abject poverty far behind the once low-caste Hindus.

“We are way behind them,” Murtaza Mansuri, who repairs rickshaws for a living, told The New York Times on Saturday, March 10.

“Reservation is essential for Muslims. If we don't get education, we will remain backward, while others move forward and forward.”

Living for decades close to the Dalits, the low-caste Hindus once known as untouchables, Mansuri said the Hindus were getting government jobs, or slots in public universities, opportunities that have meant stable salaries and nicer homes

Leaving Muslims behind, the affirmative action quota for low-caste Hindus, a policy known in India as reservation, made life harder for the Muslim minority.

In education, employment and economic status, Muslims felt under persistent discrimination in a Hindu-majority nation.

Muslims are also more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities, a landmark government report found in 2006, and less likely to qualify for bank loans.

“We also fought against the British for Indian independence,” said Hafiz Aftab, president of the All-India Muttahida Mahaz, an organization that has led protests on behalf of Muslim preferences.

“We lost so many of our brightest people. But after freedom, the government didn't make any efforts to uplift Muslims.”

Feeling betrayed by politicians, Muslim voters in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh dealt a heavy a blow last week to the country's ruling Congress Party, the regional Samajwadi Party to meet their aspirations for a better life.

“These Scheduled Castes were the most deprived people socially and economically in Uttar Pradesh,” said Aftab in an interview before the state elections.

“Now they are the ruling class. This is the result of 64 years of reservation.”


As the reservation policies were codified in the Indian constitution, analysts decried the politicians' use of the Scheduled Castes to carve out new vote banks.

“Our Constitution says we should not provide reservation on the grounds of religion,” said Mufti Julfiquar Ali, a Muslim leader in Uttar Pradesh.

“But basically, reservation was given on the grounds of religion. A Muslim washerman got no reservation, but a Hindu washerman got one. Hindu carpenters will get reservation, but the Muslim carpenter will not.”

There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India and they have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life.

Muslims complain of decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.

Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.

They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.

A 2006 report, known as the Sachar Committee report, looked into the socio-economic and educational backwardness of Muslims in the country and suggested various remedial measures.

The recommendations included setting up educational facilities, modernization of madrasahs, creation of job opportunities and steps to increase the community's representation in public services.

Only a complete scraping of the caste system would bring democracy to India Muslims, said Yogendra Yadav, a leading political scientist in New Delhi.

“In India, the deepening of democracy will not happen by erasing all caste-community boundaries,” he said.

“I see it as the next stage of social justice in India.”

But Badruddin, an older Muslim man who uses one name, wanted the benefit to provide better future for Muslims with secured government jobs that provided stability.

“The Scheduled Castes are better off than we are because they are in government jobs,” he said.

“Once you have a government job, you will be uplifted.”

Reproduced with permission from