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‘Vibrant Gujarat has left the state’s Muslims in an economic ghetto'

Tuesday April 05, 2011 02:32:33 PM, Team

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Malegaon: Exposing the myth behind the vibrant Gujarat, Outlook magazine in its latest issue has come out with a chilling fact sheet that shows how Muslims in Gujarat despite big claims on the contrary are discriminated against and are forced to live in a climate of fear, segregation and neglect.


"The state’s ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ propaganda has made things worse. Development isn’t being equally distributed, and self-congratulation has dulled the weapons needed to deal with discrimination—like state intervention to support education, nutrition and employment. For instance, a scheme for minorities that would sponsor the education of around 60,000 minority students every year (including Christians, Sikhs and Parsis) has been turned down by the state government for three years now", this is how Hanif Lakdawala, whose NGO Sanchetana runs community health programmes, sums up the ground realities in Gujarat for the Outlook correspondent.


The experience of Habib Mev, member of the municipal school board, Ahmedabad is even worse.


“In Gujarat’s universities and schools, it is difficult to get Muslim children admitted", Mev reveals to Outlook.


Mev himself is educated, and appears successful. His office has a picture of him marching next to Sonia Gandhi at a rally. But he is agitated by suggestions that his success is a sign that Gujarat is coming to terms with its communal past and embracing all—Hindus, Muslims, Christians—in the path to development.


Two years ago, he says, he brought a nephew to a reputed school for admission and was told, “Ladka hai, Musalman hai, nahin milega.” Children enrol in primary school only to drop out soon. State figures reveal that while few Hindus finish school (41 per cent) even fewer Muslims and SC/STs reach matriculation—just 26 per cent.


On one hand is Ahmedabad, the city Gujarat government showcases as one of the symbols of the Vibrant Gujarat. Across Ahmedabad, college girls and boys own demat accounts, living up to the famed dhando-mindedness of Gujaratis. Scores of cafes line roads, upmarket housing and business locations are ambitiously named ‘New York Trade Tower’, ‘Springdale Residency’, ‘Pacifica Companies’.


On the other are the places like Bombay Hotel, a sprawling slum on Ahmedabad’s outskirts. It is is 25 minutes from the city’s upmarket western districts, dotted with thousands of atms, business centres and multiplexes, criss-crossed by the best metalled roads in the country. Originally built to house 20,000 people, it now accommodates 90,000 or more, swelling with the 2002 riot-affected and others who arrive looking for work. What they get though is denial. It took multiple years, petitions and court cases to get a primary school approved for the area. Residents wrote letters to authorities demanding a school. One was built, but too far for little children to walk to. Then it was demolished to build a new metro line. More petitions somehow got it rebuilt. There is still no bank or health clinic, Outlook claims in its report.


The two opposite sides of Ahmedabad are best described by Hanif Lakdawala. “There are beautiful malls, bridges and flyovers —happiness is everywhere, but not in Gomti Nagar, not in Juhapura", Outlook quoted him as saying.


And according to Abusaleh Sharif, Chief economist, NCAER, “The economic and social life of Gujarati Muslims is worse than in some least developed states. The reason is discrimination.”


The result is that the Muslims in Gujarat are driven into backwardness with every passing day and nobody is ready to realise what hell the community is experiencing in the state. The most painful part of the entire episode is that the real picture of the community is deliberately brushed aside even by some Muslims, who are perhaps able to somehow enjoy the fruits of the 'miraculous development and investment opportunities in Gujarat', described by Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Dr Sudarshan Iyengar's, in these words, “Gujarat’s pseudo-religious sects are flourishing, industrial sops are snowballing and anti-Muslim sentiments spiralling.”


Against these chilling facts, it is ironic to note that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is neither ashamed of what he is doing nor is ready to mend his ways. Worse, he tries to assert at every national platform that everything is all right in his state and even projects himself as a 'role model' for other heads of states. Why, it is best replied by Dr. J.S. Bandukwala, a retired professor.


“Hurt by refused visas and with an eye on national politics, Modi is projecting himself as minority-friendly. People know better.” Outlook quoted Dr. Bandukwala.




The complete Outlook report can be accessed here:



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