When the UPA government in New Delhi constituted the Justice Sachar Committee last year to look into the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in India, it was a foregone conclusion that it would open a Pandora’s Box. As some portions of the final report – due later this month – have been accessed by some of us involved with the exercise at some non-governmental levels, what we see is expectedly startling.
When the final report comes later this month there are hardly any two opinions that it would lead to a big political stirring in India. The report is a benchmark for the Indian State to review its future policies vis-vis Muslims in India as much as an eye opener for Muslims in India themselves.
Looking at the history and the complexities of secular State politics in India , one, as a Muslim, would have to say that much more depends on how Muslim community responds to the findings of the report itself. This moment must act as a moment of collective introspection for Muslims in India as well so that they use it as a watershed for a fresh beginning to better their lot.
As far as Jammu & Kashmir is concerned, although there are not many commonalities between Kashmiri and Indian Muslims in terms of their social, political and economic goals and ambitions, the report is likely to generate a good debate in this State as well.
According to the findings of the report, the poverty level among Muslims in India is 44 per cent in urban areas which are much higher than the all-India poverty average of 28 per cent. What does it mean?
Reduction in poverty in urban India has been mainly due to the post-liberalised economic growth which created huge wealth in urban areas. So why Muslims have they not benefited from this? Is it their lack of education, bias of the State or their inability to be part of this new economic boom?
As we see the final report we will see reasons are so many. Both the State as well as Muslims themselves are to blame. Let us look at some findings. Some of the Committee findings reveal that there is not a single State in India where representation of Muslims in State services match with their population share.
Government employment of Muslims in West Bengal , with about 25 per cent Muslim population, is only 4.2 per cent. Assam has come out the ‘best’: 11.2 per cent State job share for its 40 per cent Muslim population.
Even Kerela, which boasts of its high levels of literacy, has a dismal track record: its more than 20 per cent Muslim population has only 10.4 per cent Muslim employees.
In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the numbers of Muslims employed in the Government are dismal less than a third of their population. Thanks to progressive educational movements in South India, things are somewhat reassuring there. In Karnataka, Muslim population of 12.2 per cent has 8.5 per cent share in jobs. In Gujarat 9.1 per cent Muslim population has 5.4 per cent State jobs. Tamil Nadu’s 5.6 per cent Muslim population has 3.2 per cent jobs in government.
When it comes to Muslims occupying higher postions, things are equally disappointing. West Bengal has reported zero per cent of Muslims in higher positions in state PSUs. Kerela has highest percentage of Muslims 9.5 per cent – in higher positions in state PSUs. In Maharashtra, where the film industry has ironically fairly good Muslim representation, only 1.9 per cent higher positions in government and PSUs are occupied by Muslims!
One of the most interesting findings of the report concerns Muslims’ percentage presence in jails! A total of 102652 jail inmates have been surveyed and it has been found that a majority of them are not in for “terrorism.” So far Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh had not provided their statistics to the Committee.
In Maharashtra, Muslims comprise 40.6 per cent of overall jail inmates who are serving sentences up to one year. In all categories, Muslim inmates constitute 32.4 per cent of all inmates. Muslims inmates in Gujarat jails constitute 25 per cent. Karnataka’s 12.23 per cent Muslim population contributes 17.5 per cent of its total jail population.
So if it is not for “terrorism” what Muslims are in for? Sachar’s final report will answer many of these questions. If it is assumed that it is petty crime, like is in the case of the African Americans in the US, which gets them in, is the system somewhere unfavorable to them?
Beyond urban India, where Muslims are better off in educational attainment and opportunities, than their rural folks, lack of a clear orientation, inability of Muslim leaders in providing a vision of progress and excellence in social, economic and educational fields for Muslims is one of the main reasons. If it were not the Aligarh, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Hamdard, Osmania and the evolving Al Ameen educational movement in South India ? where I have been partly educated – one could only imagine how bad things would have been for Indian Muslims.
Beyond these centres of excellence, the problem is that of the education which is blind to market needs. The industry of B.Ed Colleges in Kashmir is a case in point. Inherently unproductive and unimaginative, all it does is create an army of teachers only to produce future teachers. Where is the value addition? Is this kind of education going to take Muslims places? Similar models exist among Muslims in India allover.
If it were to be left to the analysis of parties like the BJP and other right-wing parties in India who managed to prevent Justice Sachar to look into the status of Muslims in armed forces in the country, the analysis would hardly leave any scope for betterment. Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom and the subversion of justice system are still in Muslim minds.
The findings of the report are also likely to blow the myth of appeasement of Muslims by parties in power. Muslims in India have long been fed with the notion that Haj subsidy and payment of salaries by the State to mosque imams is a reflection of State goodwill! These notions must be done away with. Such “goodwill” also contradicts India’s secular ideals, which in theory sees religion as an “untouchable” to the State.
Issues like these have taken focus away from bigger issues. Muslims in India, or even in Kashmir, do not need subsidy for Haj or the kind of social doles which make them characters of a vicious unproductive cycle. They need quality education, a level playing field, an economic environment of growth and self sustainability.
And Muslims themselves in India have a lot to do: come out of the ghettos, say good bye to parrots and pigeons, leave cocks to themselves to wrestle it out, cut the threads of kites once for all and fight it out within a system that still holds a lot of space to be better off.
(The columnist can be e-mailed at arjimandATgmail.com )