Syed Najiullah : The Status of Muslims in India
The Status of Muslims in India
Contrary to the popular perception that Muslims came to India through the west as the invaders, they appeared first in South India long before Mohammed bin Qasim entered Sindh in 712 A.D. They came as traders, married local women and settled in the Malabar region where they are known as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“MapillasÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. The first Mosque was also built in Kerala in 629 A.D., itself at Methala, Kodangaloor. However the advent of the Muslims in the eleventh and twelfth century had major impact and changed the political map of the country. From the beginning of thirteenth century till the advent of the British Muslims dynasties ruled over major part of Indian sub continent.
The British considered Muslims as potential rivals because from them they have taken over the reigns of the India. This was evident from the writings of W.W. Hunter who was deputed by Governor General Mayo to conduct an enquiry into whether Indian Muslims were bound by their religion to rebel against the Queen. While denying that Islamic doctrine propelled Muslims to rebel against a non- Muslim ruler, Hunter wrote that , ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ Muslims, a race ruined under British rule, harboured intense feelings of nationalityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ and were prone to giving periodic expression of this in war like enterprise.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â? Particularly after the 1857 revolt the British followed a policy of preferring Hindus to Muslims in the administrative positions. However the necessity to counter the influence of the Indian National Congress has made the British to look towards Muslims. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan appreciating the utility of modern education grabbed the opportunity and aligned with the British for the development of education among his community.
The introduction of the element of democracy in the local bodies in India and the concept gaining currency as the best form of government, developed minority consciousness among the Muslim leadership which led to the formation of Muslim League in 1906 at Dacca. The apprehension of the Muslim leaders about the future of minorities in independent India ultimately led to the partition of the country. While the Muslims majority areas became home land for Muslim a large number of Muslims decided to stay back in the country of their birth. Thus the Muslims who have came to India as traders became rulers, then minorities and in the post partition India as vulnerable minorities because not only their numbers dwindled but also they lost a voice as they were continuously suspected as the people who are cause for the partition India.
The partition of India made the Indian Muslims more vulnerable. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt has created an extra ordinary situation overnight. The creation of Pakistan rocked the secular outlook of the Hindus who began to nurse a sense of permanent injury. The Muslim community got a sense of insecurity, frustration and uncertainty out of independence and partition.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â? Nevertheless India remained secular mainly because of Mahatma Gandhi who became martyr for the cause of secular India. Jawaharlal NehruÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s commitment to secular India provided the necessary solace and security to the Indian Muslims. However, Muslims were concerned more about their security than rights and they did not go beyond the demand of protection of their life, property and cultural identity.
The Muslim leadership
The Muslims leaders always concerned with religio-culture issues rather than socio-economic development of the community. Moin Shakir aptly describes the role played by Muslim leaders. He says ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthe Muslim politics has been elitistsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ they all confine themselves to the discussion of Muslim Personal law, Character of Aligarh Muslim University and the status of Urdu. These problems being religio cultural in nature tend to make the discussion take on a communal hue, partly because separate cultural identity is cherished more strongly by community living in a setting that threatens to overwhelm it and partly because the premises, components and references in the argument, leave all other communities more or less out of the field.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â? The issues of education, unemployment, poverty, under representation of Muslims in elected bodies hardly figured in their agenda.
Policy of Appeasement
After the Nehru era, in the face of the challenge to the leadership Indira Gandhi made conscious efforts to create mass base for herself and started populist schemes targeting SCs, STs and minorities. Under this package while the SCs and STs got share in the poverty alleviation schemes and rural development programmes the Muslims got only the guarantee of secular policy and the promise of protection of their life and property. The successive governments also found it prudent to address the symbolic and emotional issues of Muslim which can be encashed easily in terms of political gains rather than concentrating on their socio-economic development.
As a result the real issues of poverty, education and employment were never addressed. The sentimental issues like ban on a book offending the sentiments of Muslims, holiday on Miladun Nabi and haj subsidy were projected as the signs of their commitment towards the Muslims. These issues instead of accruing any substantial benefit to Muslims gave credence to the rightist propaganda that Muslims are being appeased.
Thus even after 50 years of independence ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“the pampered communityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ remained as the most backward community economically and educationally which is evident from the following data.
Education among the Muslims:
Muslims are the most backward community educationally. The 1986 New Education Policy also recognized Muslims along with Neo- Buddhists as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“the educationally backward communityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. A comparative analysis of the data on the levels of literacy among different communities shows that Muslims are lagging behind all the communities in literacy. The data available from the Census 2001 is given below.
Literacy Rate among Religious Communities Census 2001
Religious communityLiteracy Rate (Female)Literacy Rate (All)
(Source: Syed Shahabuddin in Mainstream, October 23, 2004, p.14)
Thus the literacy rate among Muslims is lower than all the religious communities in India. The literacy rate for female is further low. It is also less compared to the all India literacy rate of 64.8 for all and 53.7 for female category. Considering that the Muslims are more than 12 per cent of the population their low literacy rate will have adverse effect on the total literacy rate of the country.
Another important factor which can be noticed among the Muslims is that their percentage in higher education is very low. The data collected by the National Sample Survey in 1987-88 from rural and urban India throws light on this aspect.
Distribution of Persons by General Education Sex and religion, Rural India, 1987-88 (In percentage)
Educational LevelsHindusMuslims Christians
. M F M F M F
Not Literate 51.3 75.0 58.2 76.1 33.7 43.1
Primary 19.11.8 18.6 13.1 20.5 17.8
Pri-middle 22.7 11.2 19.1 9.9 35.4 29.2
secondary 5.7 1.7 3.4 0.8 9.3 8.1
Graduate+ 1.2 0.2 0.6 ... 1.8 1.5
(NSS 43rd Round, 1987-88, analysis by Abu Saleh Shariff in Muslim India, No140, August 1994, p.378)
Distribution of Persons by General Education Sex and Religion, Urban India, 1987-88
Education LevelHindusMuslims Christians
. M F M F M F
Not Literate 25.3 42.2 42.4 59.5 18.8 22.7
Primary 18.8 17.2 20.9 18.5 16.0 17.5
Pri-Mid 30.5 25.3 26.3 16.8 36.7 33.4
Secondary 17.2 10.7 8.0 4.3 20.1 20.8
Graduate+ 7.9 4.2 2.3 0.8 8.1 5.5
(Source: NSS 43rd Round, 1987-88, analyzed by Abu Saleh Shariff in Muslim India, No 140, August, 1994, p.378)
Thus from the above tables it is clear that both in rural and urban India the percentage of Muslims is coming down steadily from Pri-Middle level to graduate level and the percentage of students who reach Higher education in rural areas is 0.6 for the male and in urban areas the corresponding percentages are 2.3 and 0.8 for male and female respectively. Compared to other religious groups like Hindus and Christians the MuslimÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s percentage in higher education is very low.
Employment Opportunities for Muslims:
The educational backwardness of Muslims also had a telling effect on their representation in the government services. They never got adequate representation in any cadre. Their representation is particularly poor in the higher cadre services. Civil services are the highest services in India and the Muslim representation in these services reflects not only their poor representation but also their pathetic economic conditions. From the list of the officers for All India Services it is clear that while Sikhs and Christians and other minorities were doing well at the competitive examinations, the Muslims by and large did not. For instance, thirty five years, after Independence, there were only 128 Muslim in the Indian Administrative Services out of a total of 3,785, there are 57 Muslims in Indian Police service and 45 in Indian Forest services which gives them a percentage of only 3.22, 2.64 and 3.14 respectively, while according to their population they should be about 11 per cent.
The Representation of the Minorities in the All India Services till 1980 illustrates that the percentage of Muslims is far behind their proportion in the population. The following table shows a comparative data of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs in the All India Services.
All India Services
(Percentage to the total in brackets)
Name of services Total No. of Officers No. of Muslims
No. of Christians No. of Sikhs
IAS 3975 128(3.22) 109(2.74) 165(4.15)
IPS 2159 57(2.64) 49(2.26) 117(5.41)
IFS 1433 45(3.14) 23(1.60) 44(3.07)
Total 7567 230(3.04) 181(2.39) 326(4.31)
(Source: Dr. Gopal Singh Report on Minorities, 1983, p.33)
In the Indian Administrative Services their representation is very poor. The following table shows the representation of Muslims in comparison with other minorities like Sikhs and Christians in these highest services.
Indian Administrative service
(Percentage to the total in brackets)
Year Total Intake Muslims Sikhs Christians
1971 87 1 (1.14) 4(4.59) 5(5.74)
1972 142 1 (0.70) 6(4.85) 4(2.81)
1973 124 3 (2.41) 5(4.03) 7(5.64)
1974 141 1 (0.70) 9(6.38) 4(2.83)
1975 129 2 (1.55) 5(3.87) 7(5.42)
1976 138 5 (3.62) 9(6.52) 10(7.24)
1977 158 10(6.32) 4(2.53) 13(8.22)
1978 134 10(7.46) 6(4.47) 13(9.70)
1979 117 3 (2.56) 8(6.83) 7(5.98)
1980 124 1 (0.80) 5(4.03) 3(2.41)
Total 1294 37(2.86) 61(4.71) 73(5.64
(Source: Dr. Gopal Singh Report on Minorities, 1983, p.31).
It is evident from the above table that while the representation of the Sikhs and Christians of 4.71 and 5.64 is more than their proportion in the population of 1.89 and 2.6 per cent respectively, the Muslims representation is only 2.86 whereas their population percentage is 12.4.(Census 2001)
The representation of Muslims in the Indian Police Services is also very low. It is only 2 per cent whereas Sikhs and Christians representation is 5.34 and 2.27 per cent respectively for the period of 1971 to 1979 which is given in the following table.
Indian Police Services
(Percentage to the total brackets)
Year Total Intake Muslim Sikhs Christians
1971 35 -- -- --
1972 59 -- 3(5.08) --
1973 116 1(0.86) -- 1(0.86)
1974 75 5(6.66) 12(16.0) 3(4.00)
1975 65 -- 12(18.5) 3(4.61)
1976 92 -- 3(3.26) 2(2.17)
1977 212 6(2.83) 3(1.41) 4(1.88)
1978 45 2(2.22) 2(4.44) 3(6.66)
1979 50 2(4.00) 5(10.00) 1(2.00)
Total 749 15(2.00) 40(5.34) 17(2.27)
(Source: Dr. Gopal Sing report on Minorities, 1983, p.31)
Thus it is clear from the above table that while the Muslim population in the country is more than 12 percent their representation in the countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s highest services is only 3.15. Similarly in the Indian Police Service out of the total recruitment of 3284 officers only 120 are Muslims with a percentage of 3.65. This is the general trend of Muslim representation in the services allover India with slight variations. There is no much improvement over the last twenty years. Further the following table throws light on the poor representation of the Muslims in the All India Services from 1981 to 2000.
Muslims in Indian Administrative Services since 1981
Year Total Muslims Percentage
1981 126 1 0.79
1982 167 5 2.99
1983 235 1 0.43
1984 233 6 2.58
1985 214 4 1.87
1986 216 6 2.78
1987 178 5 2.81
1988 249 15 6.02
1989 246 13 5.28
1990 298 9 3.02
1991 217 8 3.69
1992 157 3 1.91
1993 147 2 1.36
1994 131 2 1.53
1995 91 8 8.79
1996 81 3 3.70
1997 76 3 3.95
1998 55 1 1.82
1999 56 2 3.57
2000 93 6 6.45
Total 3266 103 3.15
(Source: Muslim India, No.238, October, 2002, p.462)
Coming to the Class III and Class IV services, the analysis of the data of the Subordinate Services Examinations, which accounts for most of the recruitment for Class III in the central Government Officers, shows that the percentage of Muslim candidate is about 3 per cent. Analyzing further the position of their representation in the registration in employment exchanges which accounts for the bulk of the recruitment to remaining Class III and Class IV services, it was seen that the percentage of their registration was only 5 percent. The placement was also the same. They had better representation in Class IV services. It worked out to be 9.7 per cent. It is seen that the employment of Muslims in the government offices, both central and states varied between 5 percent to 6 per cent of the total employees. Their representation in Class I and Class II services was between 3 per cent to 4.5 per cent, while in class III and Class IV services it is 5 per cent to 6 percent. Thus the over all representation of Muslims in Government services is low compared to their proportion in the population.
The sample study conducted by the Gopal Singh Commission, on the results of the examination for recruitment to class III services ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Clerical Cadre in the Central Secretariat held by the Central Subordinate Services Commission in 1979 shows that Muslims were only 1.56 per cent of the total successful candidates.
Subordinate Services (Central Government)
Religion % to population No. & % of Applicants No. & %of successful candidates
Muslims 11.21 5336(2.59) 83(1.56)
Christians 2.60 9502(4.61) 366(3.85)
Sikh 1.89 3643(1.77) 90(2.47)
(Source: Dr. Gopal Singh report on Minorities, 1983, p.33)
Economic Development of Muslims:
The economic condition of the Muslims is very poor. It is comparable only with the conditions of SCÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s and STÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s. The following data collected from Indian Human Development Report of 1990s on various economic indicators like house hold income, percapita income, Work participation, source of income, land holding reveals the abject conditions of Muslims.
Income, Asset and Material Well-being of Households according to Caste and Religion
ST SC Hindus Muslims All
Household Income (Rs) 19556 17465 25713 22807 25653
Per Capita Income (Rs) 3504 3237 4514 3678 4485
Work participation (Male) 51.6 52.8 52.3 48.0 51.9
(Female) 27.7 23.0 19.3 9.6 18.4
Source of Income Agriculture 55.6 37.7 56.1 44.1 55.0
Artisanship 2.7 5.7 4.3 8.3 4.5
Salaried 14.8 15.2 16.4 14.7 16.5
Land Holding in acres 4.3 2.8 4.6 3.6 4.5
% Kutcha Houses 74.0 66.6 55.2 65.9 55.4
%Electricity 29.7 30.7 43.2 30.0 42.9
%Protected Water 61.6 72.8 71.1 78.1 72.0
% Piped Water 17.2 22.6 25.3 19.4 24.8
% having Toilets 12.2 8.3 13.2 26.7 15.3
% Using PDS 37.5 32.1 34.1 21.8 33.2
Poverty Head Count 51.0 50.0 39.0 43.0 39.0
(Source: India: Human Development report of the 1990s, cited by Abusaleh Shariff in Muslim India, No.216, December, 2000, p. 534)
Thus the above table shows that the poverty head count is more among the Muslim than the whole population. The household income is less than that of the national average and also of the Hindus. It is only better than the SCs and STs. The per capita income of the Muslims is Rs.3678 which is near to the per capita income of SCs and STs. It is far less than per capita income of the whole population and that of the Hindus. This proves that Muslims along with the SCs and Sts are the economic backward groups. This is because the lack of access to productive assets, employment and wage stability for these groups. Muslims are more deprived in terms of land holding across India. The proportion of income derived from agriculture and allied activities among the Muslims is much lower than the Hindus. Access to basic needs such as Electricity and protected water is below the national average for the Muslims. Muslims particularly have lower PDS utilization compared with all other castes and religious categories. Thus the overall situation shows that Muslims economic conditions are comparable only with that of the SCs and STs and far below the national average.
The 55th Round of country wide survey conducted in 1999-2000 by the National sample Survey Organization (NSSO), the autonomous body of he Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation also corroborate the above analysis. According to the Survey a large number of Muslims than Hindus suffer from low levels of consumption. Average consumption expenditure by each member of a family is less than Rs. 300 a month among 29 percent of rural Muslims, while the corresponding proportion for rural Hindus is 26 per cent in the bottom 20 percent. The difference is much wider in towns and cities where as many as 40 percent of Muslims belong to the bottom 20 percent; nearly double the 22 percent figure for Hindus.
Distribution of Persons according to Monthly Consumption Expenditure
(Among the Bottom 20 percent of total in each religion)
Hindus Muslims All Religions
Rural (less than Rs.300)26 29 26
Urban (less than Rs. 425)2240 25
(Source: 55th Round of National Sample Survey, cited by C. Rammohan Reddy, in Muslim India, No. 238, October, 2002, p. 463)
Correspondingly, at the higher end of the economic scale, the proportion of Muslims belonging to the top 20 percent of consumption expenditure is lower than Hindus. It is 12 percent for the Muslims and14 percent for Hindus in the rural areas. This difference is more in the urban areas where the Muslims among top 20 consumption category are only 6 percent, nearly three times less than Hindus who constitute 17 percent.
Distribution of Persons according to Monthly Consumption expenditure
(Among the Top 20 percent of total in each religion)
Rural(more than Rs.615)141215
Urban (more than Rs.1120)17616
(Source: 55th Round of National Sample Survey, cited by C.Rammohan Reddy, in Muslim India, No. 238, October, 2002, p. 463)
Thus it is clear from the above two tables on monthly consumption expenditure that while the percentage of Muslims is more in the bottom 20 percent, it is very less in the top 20 percent both at the rural and urban areas. This proves that poverty is much higher among the Muslims.
Thus it is clear from the above statistics that Muslims are most backward educationally, their share in employment far less than their proportion in the population. Their economic condition is very poor. Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are rampant among them. There is a need for immediate affirmative action from the government for the upliftment of this backward community and instill confidence among them and make them equal partners in the process of national building.
The real issues of livelihood and development of the minorities should become the priority of the policy makers. The following issues need immediate attention for the amelioration of the conditions of Muslims in India.
1. Muslims should be given reservations in proportion to their population in government services, and educational institutions through out the country and necessary constitutional amendment should be made for this purpose.
2. The government should provide scholarships and hostel facility to the students from Muslim community on par with SCÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s and STÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s to raise their educational levels.
3. The government should allot funds to the minorities in the poverty alleviation schemes in proportion to their population among the below poverty line population.
4. There should be specific quota for the Muslims in all the government schemes like housing etc., in proportion to their population.
5. The government should provide loans to the artisans and self employed youth on liberal terms through National Minorities Finance Corporation and state level Minorities Finance Corporations and nationalized banks.
6. The Government should conduct survey and protect the Wakf property by establishing a national Wakf Development Corporation for the proper utilization of this property for the welfare of the community.
7. The Government should make arrangement for the teaching of Urdu as additional language from Primary to High School level for the Muslim students in all government, aided and unaided school by incorporating Urdu in the syllabus of the schools. For this purpose Urdu teachers should be appointed in all the schools in areas where students with Urdu as mother tongue are concentrated.
8. The government should protect the life and property of the Muslims by curbing the communal riots and a new legislation to specially deal with the communal riots should be enacted.
9. The Government should give powers to the National Commission for Minorities on par with National Human Rights Commission and make it a real independent body by bringing change in the pattern of selection of its head.
10. The government should discontinue giving Haj subsidy as performing Haj is obligatory only for the rich Muslims and there is no need for the government to spend public funds on this purely religious activity.