Situation of Indian Muslim is sliding since Independence, says Christopher Jaffrelot

Rehan Ansari

Mohandas Gandhi, the father of the nation, said, in 1931, “A Nation’s Greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members and shows compassion to those who can’t protect and fend for themselves.” At a time when India is to celebrate 73rd years of its independence, it will be important to understand where the Indian Muslims stand.

This report is based on the lecture of Christophe Jaffrelot, a French Political Scientist specializing in South Asia–India and Pakistan. He is an uthor of many books. He has spoken extensively on the conditions of Indian Muslims and the way forward for them in a recent webinar.

MS Education Academy

He has dealt with two questions in his lecture organized by the BASE, West Bengal. With the government and his own research data he broke the myth that Congress has pampered Indian Muslims. He also addressed the question–What difference the rise of BJP has made to the Muslims in India?

Did Congress pamper Indian Muslims?

He started analyzing the “Pampering of Muslim” with the Urdu language as an entry point, interestingly, when Urdu, as mother tongue, is not included in the “New Education Policy” by the BJP government.

Urdu as an official language

After Independence, Urdu was recognized as an official language, in different states of North India–UP, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan. However, Hindu traditionalist- right wing leaders of the Congress who ruled these states, did not support Urdu to the extent that the central government had to investigate and appoint commissions. He said, “Urdu speakers declined in UP and Bihar when the Muslims population rose.” The gap between the Muslim population and Urdu speakers is nearly 10%. However, South Indian states like Andhra Pradesh recognized Urdu and now there is a little difference between Muslims and Urdu speakers. He noted, “Map of Urdu Speakers shows that the language born in North India, has become a South Indian language.”

Muslims were absent in the state apparatus during Congress rule

During 1951-2016, Muslim IPS officers never crossed 4% of the total IPS officers, despite increase in the Muslim Population.  It has resulted in the increasing gap between the Muslim population and its representation in this elite cadre.

The situation will be worst if you remove the data of Jammu &Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state (the status has been changed and J&K is now divided into 3 UTs).
The situation is the same in IAS officers, the other elite government service.
Between the periods of 1978 to 2014, Muslims, representation never crossed 5% of the total IAS officers. He noted, “Under representation of Muslims in this elite group is constant with some ups and downs.”

Major Contribution of Sachar Committee Report

It’s the first report that paid attention to the jobs Muslims were doing and it is based on the data available mainly of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, Christophe Jaffrelotte noted.
·        8% of Urban Muslims belong to the salaried class when the national average is 21%.
·        61% of Muslims are Self Employed as artisans, traders, much more than the Hindus.
He noted, “It’s not only that they are not very well represented in the salaried people but they are particularly excluded from Public Sector Undertakings.”
Only 5% of Muslims are part of the regular salaried non-agricultural sector against almost 20% Hindus.
In contrast, in the private sector, 19.70% of Muslims are part of the salaried people whereas Hindus are 22.16%,” he said while presenting the data.
“Data reveals that Private Sector does not discriminate as much as Public Sector, he concluded.

That is another indication that the Congress government did not pamper Muslims. On the contrary, Muslims are excluded from salaried class from and by the Public Sector including Railways, universities etc. That is why the Muslims are more represented in the informal sector than the Hindus.

Muslims OBCs are less paid than their equivalent Hindu OBCs, who also get the benefit of reservation among the Hindus, for the same kind of work in the public and private sector.

Status of Muslims in education

Christophe Jaffrelotte said, “According to Census of India-2001, Muslims lag behind all the other religious categories in terms of education. However, the last census is not so bad but the gap is still there.”

Negating the stereotype that Muslim women are the most suppressed he said, “It’s not because of Muslim women. Incidentally, 50% literacy rates among Muslim women are not very much below 53% Hindu Women.”
This is because of the gap on the side of Muslim men. 59.1 % among Muslim men are literate according to the 2001 census against 65.1% Hindus. This has been explained by the dropout rate in the Sachar Committee Report.

Up to the primary level, Muslims send their kids to school more than any other community that is 65.31% against 54.91% for Hindus. “Dropout rates at Secondary and Senior Secondary levels, gradually but in-exorbitantly make the Muslims lose out,” he noted.Only 4.53% of Muslim Boys & Girls are in the senior secondary schools. At graduation level, the situation is disastrous. Muslims represent only 3.6% of total graduating students.


As a result, Muslims living Below the Poverty Line are substantial. In most of the communities, the percentage of BPL people is higher in the villages than towns and cities. But Muslims are the only ones where there are more poor people in urban India than rural areas;this has prompted us to work on the book “Muslims in Indian Cities”. This book explains that there is “A specific pattern of ghettoization among Indian Muslims in many cities.

Till 2005, Muslims used to have per capita income that was above the Dalits and not far behind Hindu OBCs but Muslims are the last ones till 2011-12 in terms of per capita income.

Muslims are not a homogenous community in India, Situation differs from state to state. Karnataka, UP and Bihar are the only states where Muslims per capita income is higher than Hindu Dalits.

To be continued

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