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'Muslims lag behind other minorities in India'

Sunday March 11, 2012 08:24:52 PM, IINA

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New York: The Indian Muslims, who have suffered decades of social and economic neglect, are complaining of unfulfilled politicians’ promises of benefits, including quotas in government jobs, like those available for low-caste Hindus, according to a US media report. “We are way behind them,” Murtaza Mansuri, who repairs rickshaws for a living, told New York Times on Saturday.

“Reservation is essential for Muslims. If we don’t get education, we will remain backward, while others move forward and forward,” he was quoted as saying in the course of a dispatch published Saturday on the deteriorating situation of long-suffering Muslims in India. Living for decades close to the Dalits, the low-caste Hindus once known as untouchables, Mansuri said the Hindus were getting government jobs, or slots in public universities, opportunities that have meant stable salaries and nicer homes.

Leaving Muslims behind, the affirmative action quota for low-caste Hindus, a policy known in India as reservation, made life harder for the religious minority, the Times said.

In education, employment and economic status, Muslims felt under persistent discrimination in a Hindu-majority nation. Muslims are also more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities, a landmark government report found in 2006, and less likely to qualify for bank loans, the report said.

“We also fought against the British for Indian independence,” said Hafiz Aftab, president of the All-India Muttahida Mahaz, an organization that has led protests on behalf of Muslim preferences.


“We lost so many of our brightest people. But after freedom, the government didn’t make any efforts to uplift Muslims,” he was quoted as saying.

Feeling betrayed by politicians, Muslim voters in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh dealt a heavy a blow last week to the country’s ruling Congress Party, the regional Samajwadi Party to meet their aspirations for a better life, the Times said.

“These Scheduled Castes were the most deprived people socially and economically in Uttar Pradesh,” said Aftab in an interview before the state elections. “Now they are the ruling class. This is the result of 64 years of reservation.”

As the reservation policies were codified in the Indian constitution, analysts decried the politicians’ use of the Scheduled Castes to carve out new vote banks. “Our Constitution says we should not provide reservation on the grounds of religion,” said Mufti Julfiquar Ali, a Muslim leader in Uttar Pradesh.


“But basically, reservation was given on the grounds of religion. A Muslim washerman got no reservation, but a Hindu washerman got one. Hindu carpenters will get reservation, but the Muslim carpenter will not", he added

There are some 140 million Muslims in India and they have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life, the newspaper said. Muslims complain of decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.

Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs. They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India’s 1.3 million-strong military.

A 2006 report, known as the Sachar Committee report, looked into the socio-economic and educational backwardness of Muslims in the country and suggested various remedial measures. The recommendations included setting up educational facilities, modernization of madrassas, creation of job opportunities and steps to increase the community’s representation in public services.

Only a complete scraping of the caste system would bring democracy to India Muslims, said Yogendra Yadav, a leading political scientist in New Delhi. “In India, the deepening of democracy will not happen by erasing all caste-community boundaries,” he was quoted as saying. “I see it as the next stage of social justice in India.”


But Badruddin, an older Muslim man who uses one name, wanted the benefit to provide better future for Muslims with secured government jobs that provided stability, according to the Times.


“The Scheduled Castes are better off than we are because they are in government jobs,” he said. “Once you have a government job, you will be uplifted.”




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