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Illiteracy, Poverty and Injustice: Even after 70 years of independence Muslims in India continue to suffer

By Muslim Mirror Staff

Islam is the second largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country’s population or roughly 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam. Over the centuries, Muslims have played a notable role in economics, politics and culture of India, however  70 years after independence the overall condition of Indian Muslims is pathetic.

Poverty illiteracy and ghettoization has marred Muslims for decades now. Ghettoisation among Indian Muslims began in the mid-1970s when first communal riots occurred. It got heightened after the 1989 Bhagalpur violence in Bihar and became a trend after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Soon several major cities developed ghettos, or segregated areas, where the Muslim population moved in. This trend however, did not help for the anticipated security the anonymity of ghetto was thought to have provided.

During the 2002 Gujarat riots, several such ghettos became easy targets for the rioting mobs, as they enabled the profiling of residential colonies. This kind of ghettoisation can be seen in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and many cities of Gujarat where a clear socio-cultural demarcation exists between Hindu-dominated and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods.

In places like Gujarat, riots and alienation of Muslims have led to large scale ghettoisation of the community. For example, the Juhapura area of Ahmadabad has swelled from 250,000 to 650,000 residents since 2002 riots. Muslims in Gujarat have no option but to head to a ghetto, irrespective of their economic and professional status.

Increase in ghetto living has also shown a strengthening of stereotyping due to lack of cross-cultural interaction, and reduction in economic and educational opportunities at large. Secularism in India is being seen by some as a favour to the Muslims, and not an imperative for democracy

The Sachar Committee Report explored and commented upon a truly wide range of random issues and concerns, often with a view to forcefully place the Muslim viewpoint on those issues in the public sphere. This included making observations on the high birth rate in the Muslim community in comparison to Hindus: the committee estimated that the Muslim proportion will stabilize at between 17% and 21% of the Indian population by 2100.As per the 2011 census, the population of Muslims is nearly 15% and rose by over 2% over a period of only ten years.

The Sachar Committee highlighted and presented its suggestions on how to remove impediments those preventing Indian Muslims from fully participating in the economic, political, and social mainstream of Indian life. The report was the first of its kind to reveal the “backwardness” (a term used in Indian academic and legal discourse for historically dispossessed or economically vulnerable communities, not meant to be pejorative) of Indian Muslims. An issue highlighted was that while Muslims constitute 14% of the Indian population, they only comprise 2.5% of the Indian bureaucracy. The Sachar Committee concluded that the conditions facing Indian Muslims was below that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Report brought the issue of Muslim Indian inequality to national attention, sparking a discussion that is still ongoing. The Committee recommended setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission to provide a legal mechanism to address discrimination complaints, including in matters such as housing. In response to the Committee’s findings, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proposed an increase to the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation’s (NMDFC) budget, citing new duties and expanded outreach that the institution would take on to implement the Committee’s recommendations.

However, no such recommendations have been implemented and Muslims continue to suffer in India even seven decades after independence.

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