Education of Muslims in India : Problems & Prospects
Education of Muslims in India: Problems & Prospects
M. Burhanuddin Qasmi
Children, Youth, and their Education in a Globalizing India
December 22-24, 2005
Organized by: Centre for Postcolonial Education
N 1/70 Nagwa, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Importance of Education in Islam
In recent times the question of Muslims educational backwardness has been an important element of political and social rhetoric in India. Although Muslims are not alone in reflecting educational backwardness yet recent static shows they are one of the most backward communities in the field of education and literacy in the country. This fact is, no doubt, astonishing for those who know that the very first declaration of the QurÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢an- ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“IQRAÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (to read) is about ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“educationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. And the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (SAWS) termed education as basic obligation for every individual- male and female, the very first time in the history of mankind, in 610 (AD). However, this write-up endeavours to locate the educational problems of the post colonial Muslims in India and invites sincere review by the present academia to help practical enforcement of all educational plans to get Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) mission a success story by 2010.
Government of IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s attitude towards Education
It has been more than half century since India achieved freedom. Observing the big amount of illiteracy, the constitution of India under article 45 made it obligatory on the Govt. to achieve 100% literacy within ten years from the enforcement of the constitution in 1950. The Article 45 also states that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“the State shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen yearsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. Cent percent literacy, with free and compulsory education, in India should have become a reality by 1960.
On the contrary, a tragedy for all Indians is that the target set by the constitution to be achieved by 10 years in 1950 never became a reality even after 55 years! Consequently, our country which has started from 20% national literacy rate in 1950 is still struggling at half a way fifty years later- in 2001, with 65.38 national literacy. The 10th ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Five-year PlanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ visualizes that India will achieve the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Universal Elementary EducationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ by 2007. However, the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Union Human Resource DevelopmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (HRD) Ministry announced in 2001 that India would achieve that target only by 2010. Although the target is five years from now but the outcome is known to all today! It will be another extension of 10 to 5 years. And who knowsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ the same may continue for years and yearsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â? it is very gloomy scenario all around, very poor performance by all for promotion of education.
Education is a fundamental right of all children
Realizing the Government's sluggish attitude and delaying tactics in implementing the Constitutional commitment, the Supreme Court of India, in the Unnikrishnan Judgement way back in 1993, said: "It is noteworthy that among the several articles in part IV only Article 45 speaks of time limit, no other article does. Has it not significance? Is it a mere pious wish, even after 44 years of the Constitution?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â?
The 93rd Constitution Amendment 2001 enacting ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“free and compulsory education for all children is a fundamental rightÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ still remains a ray of hope to millions of children in the age group of 6-14 years. The fundamental right to free education was received with paramount importance by all. But again it is already 4 years after the amendment and there is no visible development in the field of education and literacy. Even most of the backward class parents from schedule cast, schedule tribe and other minority communities do not know that the 93rd constitutional amendment of India in 2001 had made education of children a fundamental right which cannot be overlooked by them. Irony of the fact is that the then BJP lead NDA government gained all credits of the 93rd amendment and did little practically to enforce the same for betterment of the children or nation.
MuslimsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Contributions towards Indian Education
Education in India, before the advent of Islam, was considered to be the monopoly of Brahmins. They excluded the lower class people to acquire knowledge because they thought themselves to be superior. There were mass revolts against this notion resulting in the shape of Buddhism and Jainism, but soon these religions grew weaker and the previous conditions returned. Although none can deny the glory of Nalanda and Taxila universities of India, the fact cannot be over looked that the common people were always deprived of education in early Hindu periods. When Islam came to India it had to fight this mindset that prevailed in the masses. Ultimately, due to the efforts of Muslim rulers every citizen of the country, whether Muslim or Hindu, man or woman, rich or poor, was enshrined with the right to acquire knowledge.4
Shah Waliullah the great Educational Reformer
Shah Waliullah (1702-1763) was considered to be the one who succeeded in building a bridge between the medieval and modern Muslim India. Since he was well aware of the religio-political and socio-economic disintegration of Muslims in India, he launched his two-fold reform movement. His Jihad (arms) movement was carried on through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and his educational and religious reforms led to the emergence of many great centres of Muslim learning like Darul Uloom of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh province of India.
Shah Waliullah had seen the decline of Mughal rule in India and observed similar degeneration in other countries of Asia and Africa. The last pious and powerful ruler of Mughals king ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Aurang ZebÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (ra) had already passed away in 1707 and East India Company had got power to rule a part of Eastern India defeating ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Sirajud DawlaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ at Palasi in 1757. Ultimately ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Shah WaliullahÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ came to the conclusion that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“monarchist and imperialist tendencies were the main responsible of the worsening State affairs and de-formulated basic principles for regeneration and reconstruction of life and human valuesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. In his book ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Hujjatullahil BalighaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ he laid down "labour is the real source of wealth" and "only those people deserve to possess wealth who put in labour the physical or mental strength for the sake of the country and society". All people, he believed, are equal and the position of the ruler of a State is no more than that of a common citizen in the matter of justice and freedom. Right to freedom, security and property etc. are equal for all irrespective of religion, race or colour.5
Notably he propagated these ideas long before the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“French, American and SovietÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ revolutions took place which still lie buried under the dust of misinformation raised by the Colonial historians. At the cost of hypocrisy of modern history this Himalayan personality had been deprived of the deserved place in our modern syllabi history books.
Problems of Post Colonial Indian Muslim
The current situation of Indian Muslims has alarmingly deteriorated despite the fact that they make up nearly 15 percent of the national population and have a glorious history of several centuries of enlightened rule that put India firmly on the world map, and are the second largest Muslim community in the world today. Although, they are improving day by day for the last two decades and are learning to stand on their own feet but they have been deliberately placed in hard social, educational and political conditions ever since the historic defeat of Indians in 1857 revolt against the British till this day. For instance, the number and percentage of Muslims in all government sectors of India has steadily declined from 31 percent in early 1947 to only 2.3 percent in 2001. The ruling class puts the blame on the doors of the Muslims, while the facts are different in view of the gradual isolating trend imposed on the community. A graphic picture of Muslim deprivation also emerges from the studies done in recent years by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). The findings have been summed up in two sentences: "Muslims in India have a poor human development status. Widespread illiteracy, low income, irregular employment - implying thereby a high incidence of poverty is all pervasive among the Muslims."6 To me, the study of the NCAER fails to penetrate deep into the depth of these problems; it misrepresents facts and falsifies perceptions- which are again new hindrance towards accurate diagnosis of real problems.
Four Principal Problems of Indian Muslims
Indian Muslims have, as per my findings, four principal problems. And these problems are the real obstacles in all educational, economic and socio-political perspirations of the Muslim community.
The first problem is the absence of true Muslim leadership in the post-Partition period and until this day. The present Muslim leadership is either puppets of the leading parties or they have no sense of the problems Muslims community is actually facing in India. It is encouraging to see that some practising Muslims are gearing up to participate directly in the Western form of democratic politics in India corresponding to the pressing social demands and continued injustice in the post colonial India. It is a good sign for Assamese Muslims, at least, who stand 30 percent of the stateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s total populations that a pure social worker and a religious scholar- ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Maulana Badruddin Ajmal Al-QasmiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ is ultimately becoming one of the key factors in AssamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s politics. He formed a new political party ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“United Democratic FrontÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (UDF) with support from 20 Muslim and non-Muslim organizations in September this year. The reasons to form a new party with minority support in Assam are well understood- the continued mistreatment of Congress with its strong vote bank- Muslims and other minorities in the State for the last 58 years and the failure of so-called Muslim politicians who just after elections become EXTRA secular and even fear to name themselves as MuslimsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ representatives. It has been an irony in the post 1947 India that majority of the Muslim politicians have been proven ineffective in regards to the community which has voted them to the power.
Maulana Abul Kalam AzadÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s famous address to the Muslims of Delhi on October 23, 1947 set a new political trend for Indian Muslims. The occasion demanded leadership of a bruised and bewildered community; the Maulana chose to lace his advice with taunt and reproach, a very different approach from the one he had taken in his presidential address to the Ramgarh session of the Indian National Congress in 1940. His bitterness over the turn of events as he penned down in his book ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“India wins freedomÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ is understandable. The painful fact remains that he chose not to lead when leadership was most needed for the Muslim community. Therefore, I personally welcome the recent step taken by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal Al-Qasmi to jump into direct politics and wish to see him a strong partner in the next Assam Govt.
The second problem of Indian Muslims is lack of security. Riots, communal violence have become a sad reality of IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s life and the majority of the victims of riots in India are Muslims. According to Mr. Ram Puniyani, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“the data from1961 to 1992 shows that during these four decades 80 percent of victims of communal violence have been MuslimsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢.7 During the 1984 Delhi riots nearly 4000 Sikhs were done to death. In a similar vein another minority- Christians saw the ghastly burning of Pastor Graham Stains along with his two minor sons.
The bloody massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in late February 2002 that led to the death of over 2000 Muslims is a ghastly reminder of an organized violence with tacit support by the ruling authorities. Mumbai based writer late ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Mr. Rafiq ZakariaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ has written with anguish about communal riots in India. According to him, they reached genocidal proportions in Gujarat in 2002.8
The political milieu just after the partition was such that made Muslims feel so demoralized that they could not dare ask the question as to why the doors of defence forces were barred to Muslims under policy directions from NehruÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s government after independence. The Muslim civil servants similarly were not to be appointed on sensitive posts and extra caution had to be used for issuing passports to them.9 The strength of Muslims in the police and state paramilitary forces was deliberately reduced to the extent that in some States including U.P. and Delhi their representation is very low. This made the Amnesty International call the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of U.P. a mainly Hindu paramilitary police force, having only about 2% Muslims, in its Report on Allegation of Extrajudicial Killings By the Provincial Armed Constabulary in and Around Meerut on 22-23 May, 1987.10 In 1974 the commission of Inquiry into Sadar Bazar, Delhi Disturbances noted with concern the negligible presence of Muslims i.e. 1.3 percent in the Delhi police force.11 It is as simple as anything that when a communityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s physical security is repeatedly endangered it will hardly make any progress in the field of education and economy.
The third principal problem of Muslim community is its low income. Although the economic and social situation of Muslims is not the same throughout India, one cannot deny the fact that poverty and lack of genuine financial recourses are hampering socio- educational development of the community at every step. In 1999, a team of researchers at the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), led by Abu Saleh Shariff, published the results of a nationwide survey of 33,000 households. This study collated information according to socio-economic status, caste - and religion. Which clearly shows that a larger proportion of Muslims than other religious minorities suffer from low levels of consumption. The best economic measure is how much a person spends on food, clothing and other items of consumption. Average consumption expenditure by each member of a family was less than Rs. 300/- a month in 29 percent of rural Muslims.12 But what is more remarkable is that the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), an autonomous Government agency, has compiled and published the socio-economic data according to religion that it collected during the course of its national surveys of consumption expenditure during the 50th and 55th rounds in 1993-94 and 1999-2000. The socio-economic profile that the NSSO estimates paint of the Muslim Indian is a depressing one. In all major socio-economic indicators, the members of India's biggest religious minority are, on the average, worse off than members of the majority community. First, they spend less on items of daily consumption because they apparently earn less. Second working Muslims are more in casual labour and seasonal occupations. Third, among those with access to land a Muslim household is mostly cultivating smaller plots. Fourth, unemployment rates are higher among educated Muslims than others. This overall profile is true of both men and women, in rural and urban India and in all States.13 The NSSO does not provide information on shelter, health, nutrition and other socio-economic indicators. If such information was available the larger picture would have been in more black and white terms.
Official data is, at least, enough to figure out that in the post independent India Muslim community remained downwards economically in comparison to all other majority or minority communities. And with such findings in hand as we have now through NSSO about the profile of second religious majority group of India, official policy can - if the Government wants to - easily identify the groups most in need of state intervention, support and reservation. It is typical of IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s political and social ethos that this fact of gross under representation of a significant religious minority is not allowed to become an issue. Any such discussion would be rather viewed as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“communalÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ which is taken to be anti-secular.
The fourth and most painful problem of Muslim Indians is the discriminatory attitudes of the majority community towards them in all walks of life. In this paper it is not possible, nor is it necessary, to give an exhaustive account of how Muslims have fared under law in Independent India and how intolerant and discriminatory attitudes towards them have adversely affected their rights as equal citizens in the common domain and their collective right to distinct religious, cultural and linguistic identity. What is being attempted here is to present a sampling of state of things to illustrate how institutional discrimination and extreme intolerance against Muslims have made them periodically feel insecure, marginalized and educationally deprived. I would prefer to cut short this prolong debate and present an abstract from the report prepared by Professor Iqbal A. Ansari on ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Intolerance and discrimination against Muslims as a religious minority In IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ which was submitted by the Indian Muslim Federation (UK) at a Workshop at United NationsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination (on 27 August-7 September 2001) in Durban, South Africa to ascertain the cause of MuslimsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ deprivation of quality education and social developments.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Fulfilling the promises made to minorities by the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Indian National CongressÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ during the freedom movement the following safeguards were provided for them in the Draft Constitution. (1947-49)
a) Number of seats in the national Parliament and State Assemblies to be reserved for minorities on the basis of their population, though elections to be held under joint electorate.
b) Share of minorities in the Cabinet to be ensured through provision of a Schedule.
c) Special Officers for Minorities in the Union and States for monitoring implementation of safeguards.
d) The claims of minorities in public services to be given due consideration.
e) Minority right to preserve their distinct language, script and culture and establishing educational institutions of their choice guaranteed.
IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Constituent Assembly adopted the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and Minorities in August 1947,14 which were written into the Draft Constitution Articles, 292, 294, 296 & 299.15 But under the shadow of partition safeguards for political and economic rights were altogether dropped and so was the provision of special officers for monitoring of implementation of safeguards in May16 & October17 1949. Though assurances were given that the majority would ensure that minorities got a fair deal in public participation and representation even without Constitutional safeguards.18 These promises have however remained unfulfilled.19 Though Muslims have been persistently underrepresented in Parliament and State Assemblies, it has never figured an issue to be addressed by Committees constituted for electoral reforms including that constituted by the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“National Commission to Review the Working of the ConstitutionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢.
The Constitution of India does provide right to equality and non-discrimination for all citizens irrespective of social origin or religious affiliation but there has been no Constitutional or statutory mechanism to study and monitor the nature, extent and modalities of discrimination against any individual or group of citizens including minorities and for taking remedial measures.
The benefits of affirmative action of the State under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) are not available to Muslims as a backward minority which is not adequately represented in public services though certain backward classes of Muslims are included in the common list of Other Backward Classes of Hindus and Muslims. Moreover there is misunderstanding about the applicability of Article 16(4) to religious minorities, although its drafting history shows that the provision was meant to provide protection to minorities,20 of which the Supreme Court has taken note in its judgment on the issue of reservation.21 On the contrary, the recent wide spread debate on Andhra Pradesh GovernmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s five percent Muslim Reservation Bill which the Legislative Assembly had passed on October 5, 2005 during the monsoon session was sacked by the High Court on the basis of a petition by some non-Muslim organizations which contended that with the Muslim quota, the total reservations in the state had exceeded 50 per cent. However, the state government cited that in neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, the reservation percentage had exceeded 50 percent and the same was held valid by the Supreme Court!22
The fact, however, remains that on one hand there is no machinery to look into widespread discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims, on the other hand they are excluded as minority from all benefits of reservations, in spite of their gross backwardness and under representation in all sectors of public employment.
The ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“National Commission for MinoritiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (NCM) whose functions include study of discrimination23 is a powerless body, whose reports and recommendations are not laid on the table of the Parliament with action taken report for years together. The examples of few recent cases dealt with by the NCM should be enough to illustrate how impotent and irrelevant a body it is, and how cynically it is treated by the Union & State Governments.
In March 2001 during communal disturbances in Kanpur the PAC personnel allegedly killed eleven Muslims and burnt and looted their shops during curfew hours to teach the Muslims a lesson. When a delegation of minority organizations met the Commission24 demanding effective role of the NCM along with the National Commission for Human Rights (NHRC) in bringing to justice the culprits and reforming the law enforcement machinery, the Chairman pleaded helplessness. He told the delegation that letters and fax messages Commission sent to the Govt. of U.P. for report of incidents had remained unacknowledged and unresponded. On the other hand, during and after the Gujarat carnage in 2002 records of all previous religious discrimination in India was shamelessly broken by both Central and State Governments and credit must go to mainstream media and NGO personals who kept this truth wide open for all generations to come.
The ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“National Human Rights CommissionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s (NHRC) own social composition demonstrates its callous disregard for the principle that even without fixing any quota diversity of the society should get reflected in the composition of all public institutions. It is symptomatic that in the NHRC, which is supposed to protect rights of citizens, the Muslim presence is almost ZERO. Out of five members there is no Muslim member of the Commission. There are no Muslim officers out of 28 in Group-A; again no Muslims among 76 officers in Group-B. There are just 2 Muslims, one upper division clerk and the other lower division clerk out of 72 Group-C officers; out of 71 employees at the lowest rung of Group-D there are no Muslims. Thus the total Muslim representation works out to less than 1% at the lower level.25 Similar is the state of most other national institutions in the field of education, media, judiciary, finance, industry and commerce.26
It is instructive to note that the apex court in India makes it obligatory to admit at least 50% students from communities other than their own in institutions established by minorities under Constitutional protection of Article 30, for reasons of national integration, as educational institutions are supposed to be melting pots for a nation in the making.27 What about all other educational institution? There is no obligation for them to admit even 1% of minority students for reasons of national integration.
Amazing enough to note that on one hand Government of India seems very keen on granting aids to Muslim run educational institutions, especially Madrasas and Maktabs, in the name of quality and modern education. While on the other hand, very recently Allahabad High Court struck down the minority status given to the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) by the HRD ministry and declared the decision of 50% reservation of seats to Muslims in AMU's post-graduate medical courses as illegal. The court verdict has observed that AMU has been established by Government and not by Muslims ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ therefore on the basis of same article 30 minority status canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be claimed.
Whereas, historically it is well documented for all that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875 started this school which later became Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College (MAO). British parliament converted MAO into a university by passing a law in 1920. Indian Government amended the act in 1951, 1965 and 1981. Only in 1981, the AMU got the minority status. And recently, AMU had started 50% reservation to Muslims trying to base its move on Article 30 of Indian constitution.
These are just few principal problems to name, I put forwarded with facts and statistics which are constantly disturbing educational and economic development of Muslims Community ever since 1857. I invite more critical analysis on them and open hearted debates in the intellectual arena to make the wheels of educational development for all in India smoothly going.
Muslims, in the words of one analyst, "suffer double discrimination, by virtue of being Muslim and poor". In the light of this experience of half a century, it has revived interest in the Constituent Assembly debates on the subject.28 It is a positive gesture that the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has specifically taken up the question of minority welfare in various fields. Their empowerment is essential for their fuller participation in all fields of national activity. Muslims and other minorities constitute about 20 per cent of the population and no society can afford to allow such a large segment of the citizen body to lag behind.
While summarizing the central thesis of my presentation, I would prefer to ask the following questions. Do the Muslims of India bear responsibility for their present condition? Has it come about because they have gone wrong somewhere, somehow? Can it be attributed solely or even principally to the Muslim inability or incapacity? Where precisely would this line of argument take us? Can complex socio-cultural situations in a plural society like India, which has consciously provided space for linguistic and religious minorities, be explained in terms of assigning blame for perceived acts of omission and commission? My observation though in BOLD words is that Muslims cannot detach themselves from being responsible for this pathetic state of affairs of the community and low rate of literacy and poverty. As it is said that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“to be oppressed is a sinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ therefore, they are equally responsible for the national loss due to their inadequate responses to the problems which are otherwise of great concerned for our national interest. Yet their inadequacy or negligence does not account the only principal reason of their backwardness in education and economy.
There is a need to opt for a wider perspective. The argument needs to rest firmly on the principles of the Constitution, on its assertion of equality and on its guarantee of diversity. Some may consider minorities a bothersome nuisance; they are out of step with both national and international norms. Modern India regards minorities as additional dimensions of a rich and diverse entity.
The Muslims of India, in their self-perception, prioritize their problems: physical security, employment, education and social justice. Each of these is within the ambit of affirmative action, within the framework developed in the CMP, and calls for rigorous implementation. On the other hand, large segments of Muslims are myopic in varying degrees about another set of problems of considerable urgency: education of girls and social reform. This requires a different approach, at civil society levels, and must not exclude segments of traditional community leaders and religious scholars (Ulama) whose impact on public perceptions is undeniable. The idiom of communication here would need to be different and differentiated, persuasive rather than prescriptive.
Success in addressing the first set of problems, as aforesaid under ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“four principal problems of Muslim in IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ would improve receptivity for the change of perception required for the second. Of course the community should work on it on a war footing. There are many Muslim voluntary groups in south India engaged in the educational, economic, and social welfare of the community. The North should take a lesson from the South and replicate the model in this part of the country.
Evidence indicates that Muslims in states like Kerala, Tamil Nado and Assam are trying to increase the educational preparedness of an average Muslim of middle class and lower class and enlarge the size of the educated among Muslims. It is high time that all the think tanks must work together to facilitate quality education to children who are in schools and ponder seriously over those 28 % children who are still out of schools due to poverty or lack of facility to achieve the dream of cent percent literacy till 2010. It is, anyway, unwise to persist on criticizing any educational system of Muslim, whatsoever, for quality or modern education before we can do something practical to enroll those out of schools 28 percent Muslims children under any system of education.