Facts about Indian Muslimsby HUMRA QURAISHI January 15 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins, 44 secs
Humra Quraishi leans on facts and figures to draw a picture of the state of the Muslim community in India.
All those arrested or detained so far in the Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai app case are young. How can people at such young ages carry perversion, hatred and communal anger in their hearts for the ‘other’? Years ago when I’d first heard academician Nalini Taneja talk in an open forum of what’s taught in schools run by the RSS, her findings had shocked me. This Delhi University professor read aloud passages from their textbooks and commented that they were nothing short of unadulterated versions of the RSS view of history and its misuse by them for sectarian agendas.
Here’s a glimpse of what they teach: Aryans are the original inhabitants of India, Indian civilization is essentially Aryan civilization, the ancient period of history when Hindu rulers ruled was golden and India had enormous advantages during this period. The coming of the Mughals brought along darkness and cruelty. Hedgewar, Golwalkar and Savarkar are among the greatest freedom fighters. Muslims as a community are traitors, Hinduism is synonymous with nationalism - also, caste, child marriage and sati are defended. Muslims, Christians and Parsis are all called foreigners. Urdu is referred to as a foreign language.
In 2016, during an interview given to me for a leading newspaper, former IIT Mumbai academician turned activist Professor Ram Puniyani also elucidated upon the teachings in these schools. He said, “RSS has single teacher schools, Ekal Vidyalaya, and bigger ones as Shishu Mandirs. The pattern of authoritarianism between teachers-taught, senior-junior is very rigid. The main values, which are promoted are those of conformism. Along with this, the books in these schools are structured around the mythical history of superiority of Hinduism, that all was well with Hindus till Muslim aggressors came. Caste is presented as having given stability to society, Muslim rulers are presented as cruel and so on. The hatred for religious minorities is drilled into the children.”
Ram Puniyani has also focused on the dangers of such teachings in his book ‘Indian Nationalism Versus Hindu Nationalism’ (Pharos Media). He has written: Hindu nationalism or for that matter any nationalism under the cloak of religion is an attempt to smuggle in the feudal hierarchical values in the modern language. To begin with, it relegates the religious minorities to second class citizenship and simultaneously promotes the inequality of caste and gender. The core of freedom of expression; the freedom of basic choices in matters of food, life partners, patterns of life are constrained. Pluralism is undermined, rational thinking and scientific temper is being attacked. We are living in difficult times where the very core of our national values is being attacked. The notions of pluralism, fraternity, equality are under constant attack. We have a Constitution based on these values, which in nutshell can be encapsulated in the term ‘Indian Nationalism’. Over the last three decades, Hindu Nationalism is being asserted in aggressive ways.
The former Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University, Roop Rekha Verma, minced no words whilst talking about the communal ‘happenings’ in the academic institutions in Uttar Pradesh: “Besides the text books, the manner in which teachers talk against the Dalits and Muslims in classrooms is just too shocking!”
Indian Muslims are well aware of the RSS agenda. They also realize they cannot go marching down the streets shouting anti-government slogans. They are aware of the fact that it is neither possible or prudent to fight the Hindutva lot, so they are forlorn, severely helpless and hopeless. But this does not mean that they are unaware of the political treachery involved here. They read books about RSS ideology, written by scholars and academicians. AG Noorani’s ‘The RSS - A Menace To India’ (Left Word), Shamsul Islam’s ‘Know The RSS: Based on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Documents’ (Pharos Media), ‘The End of India’ (Penguin) by Khushwant Singh, Jyortimaya Sharma’s 'Terrifying Vision – M.S. Golwalkar, The RSS and India' (Penguin), books on the RSS and the Right-Wing by Ram Puniyani, books authored by the former I.G. Police, Maharashtra, S.M. Mushrif are just a few among the many that have the truth documented.
Khushwant Singh wrote: “The Sangh has capitalized on old prejudices about Muslims. One should make every single effort to save the country and openly challenge, take on these Sanghis/fundoos who are destroying the country. We have to battle with them at any cost, give it back to them, abuse for abuse. For, if we love our country we have to save it from the fascist forces.”
A.G. Noorani’s book says the following: “India is battling for its very soul. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the most powerful organization in India today; complete with a private army of its own, unquestionably obeying its leader who functions on fascist lines of the Fuehrer principle. The RSS is at war with India’s past. It belittles three of the greatest builders of the Indian State - Ashoka, the Buddhist, Akbar, the Muslim, and Nehru, a civilized Enlightened Hindu. It would wipe out centuries of achievement for which the world has acclaimed India and replace that with its own narrow, divisive ideology.”
How apt are these lines of Sahir Ludhianvi: Here we go, stoking fire through song-laden lips/The fear of the world can never staunch the flow of our words/In all, we have just one view, our own//Why should we see the world through someone else’s eyes?/It is true we did not turn the world into a garden/But at least we lessened some thorns from the paths we traveled.
Let me now throw light on the misconception circulated by the Hindutva brigades that the Indian Muslims are appeased. In contrast, it’s important to listen to the Indian Muslims - they will recount humiliating and traumatic experiences they face because they happen to be Muslims.
Today, when one can get a womb-on-rent, a Muslim family finds it difficult to get a room-on-rent. If the crisis situation for the Indian Muslims was limited to the housing front only, one wouldn’t raise an alarm.
Even poet Nida Fazli was compelled to agree that he didn’t face problems with his housing because of his partner. “She’s not a Muslim, that’s why I faced no problem getting a house in Mumbai. Of course I do know of the communal situation. There’s communal poisoning spreading because the politicians are dividing us. Yeh politicians and politics hamai tukrai-tukrai mai baat rahi hai!” - Politicians and their politics are dividing us into pieces!
Details of the 2011 Census reveal that India’s average household size was 4.45 members. It has decreased and came down from 4.67 a decade ago. The size of an average Muslim household fell to 5.15 from 5.61 over the previous decade. And this reduction was sharper at 11.1% for Muslim households headed by men, while for families headed by women it was 4.47%. The average size of Hindu families declined by 5% over the decade. The fact that the average size of a Muslim household is shrinking faster than its Hindu counterpart reveals that Right-Wing propaganda against the minority community is factually incorrect and vicious.
The first time I heard about problems faced by the Muslims in the country was in 1998 when I interviewed economist Abusaleh Shariff, chief economist with the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). He spoke about the findings of the team, which had conducted a survey among 33,000 rural households to create a 'Human Development Profile’. Dismal facts that had stood out were: India's 350 million people lived a miserable life of absolute poverty. Figures showed Muslims lagging on several fronts. Community wise break-up showed Muslim population to be comparatively much lower than the majority. Coupled with this was, more Muslims, 66%, lived in rural areas.
And in 2002, when his report ‘Relative Socio Economic Deprivation of Indian Muslims’ was released, I had interviewed him again. The report had revealed the following: Overall head-count poverty and capability ratios were considerably higher for Muslims compared to the all India average and the caste Hindus. The percentage of population below the poverty line was 43 for Muslims as compared with only 32 for caste Hindus and 39 for the whole population.
Findings had shown that the household income of Muslims was Rs 22,807 compared with Rs 29,786 for the Hindu of the upper-caste. Even where land was concerned, 43 percent of Muslim households were landless compared with only 30 percent Hindus - on an average the high-caste Hindus owned 5.1 acres of land compared with only 3.6 acres for Muslims. On cultivation, work and housing, the statistics suggested that only 36% of Muslims undertake agricultural occupations compared to 44% among Hindus. The proportion of income derived from agriculture and allied activities among the Muslims was much lower than the Hindus. However their share of income was disproportionately larger when it comes to artisans and industrial work. In urban areas only 29 percent of Muslims were employed in wage/salaried occupations, compared to 47% Hindus. 53% Muslims were largely self-employed.
The findings also showed that Muslims in rural areas depended relatively more on wage labor. But the work participation rate of Muslims was much lower, which suggested a higher unemployment rate. Employment of Muslim women in any sort of occupation was extremely low.
Whilst Muslims had relatively better access to protected water and toilets. They were also relatively disadvantaged where the quality of housing was concerned – 60 percent of Muslims lived in kutcha houses compared with only 48 percent for the upper-caste Hindus. The proportion of Muslim households with electric connections was only 30 percent compared to 50 percent for the upper caste Hindus. Those utilizing the public distribution system were 22 percent for Muslims and 34 percent for Hindus.
On the education front too, Muslims were found to be far behind. Only 50% of the Muslims are literate as compared to about 60% of the upper-caste Hindus. The enrolment of Muslims was only 62% as compared with about 72% for all India and 77% for upper caste Hindus. Overall, Muslims seemed worse off as compared to all India averages and the upper caste Hindus.
After reading the report, I had asked Abusaleh Shariff to comment on the propaganda that Indian Muslims are appeased. He said, “It is a myth that Indian minorities are pampered or appeased. Providing subsidies to the Haj pilgrimage cannot be put forth as evidence of welfare for Indian Muslims! What needs to be provided are equal opportunities for education at all levels, employment - both in the public and market economy, and access to social and health security. Our analysis confirms high incidences of poverty and deprivation among all the citizens in India. Given this high level of deprivation, Muslims as a social group are relatively more deprived than the Hindu community as a whole. However, if the scheduled castes and tribes are considered separately, then the relative deprivation between Muslims and the non-SC/ST Hindus is very large. So is the differential between SCs and STs and the high caste Hindus."
This economist had also stated that most public programs in the areas of poverty alleviation and social sectors were fraught with conceptualization, identification and implementation problems, corruption at the district and lower levels of bureaucracy. “This is more so in the case of special programs aimed at the minority communities. A disproportionately higher percentage of Muslims fall in this group and thus the benefits of recent growth may not have reached a large percentage of minorities."
And during my travels it got more obvious that in contrast to the so-called appeasement, an Indian Muslim has been facing a series of disadvantages and deprivations. In several regions, Muslims are deliberately ‘kept away’ from basic government facilities, including health.
Appointing a couple of Muslim bureaucrats in prominent seats, cannot be termed as appeasement. It is called window dressing. What can a Muslim figure head do? During my first visit to Hyderabad in 2006, the Pravasi Diwas was being inaugurated by the President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam. His presence made the Muslims of Hyderabad comment that the President did not find time to visit Gujarat, post the 2002 pogrom, but had quite obviously found time to be in Hyderabad for the ‘pravasis’.
They had also told me that when several Muslims of Hyderabad wanted to meet Dr Kalam to discuss their grievances, they were not given time. They were provoked to say, “What good is a Muslim President? His predecessor Dr K. R. Narayanan, was bold enough to talk of the Gujarat pogrom.”