Muslims: The Indian Road Ahead

Asad Ashraf for BeyondHeadlines

“In Services, generally speaking, the representation of the minority communities is lessening. In some cases it is very poor indeed. Looking through, central secretariat figures, as well as some others. I am distressed to find that the position is very disadvantageous to them. Chiefly to the Muslims and sometimes to others also. In our Defense services, there are hardly any Muslims left. In the vast central secretariat of Delhi, there are very few Muslims” – Jawarhar Lal Nehru (1953)

Sixty years, after Nehru observed this, the plight of Muslims in India is no more a clandestine talk, murmured in the corridors of government departments, agencies or policy makers. Sachar Committee report, drafted by Justice Sachar, to highlight the social and economic condition of Muslims in India, was indeed a revolutionary step in bringing to light the realities surmounting the material and social condition of Muslims in India. To quote George Orwell here, “bringing out truth in the ages of darkness is in itself a revolutionary act”. Sachar report, played at least this part of the revolution and have passed, the baton on the shoulders of those, who this revolution concerns the most.

Muslims: The Indian Road AheadSix years, hence after the report was made public, not much sincerity has been displayed on account of those, who batted for its devise. The report which revealed astonishing facts and figures, have been laid to rest in cold boxes enclosing governmental files. Now and then, before every assembly or parliament elections, the echo of this report fall upon the ears of the masses and with it creates sparks of antagonism from those who remain hostile to it in negation with those benefitting out of its promulgation in the vitality of its implementation. Once this purpose is served, the report again rests in the dust along with the fate of Muslim community.

This hypocritical approach of the Indian ruling elite is an earnest threat to the democratic structure of Indian constitution. It exposes their claims of commitment to the constitution, which is a perfect embodiment of democracy and secularism. In such a situation, it’s critical for the secular minded people and activists to formulate a planned strategy for the upliftment of Muslims.

The Sachar committee report, indicates Muslims to be the most socio – economically backward community in India. At present, it lags behind the Dalits, who are advancing towards prosperity at a faster pace than the Muslims. It also cat gorily articulates the various factors which have led to such a decline in the economic and social condition of the Muslims. Amounting, to a pattern of systematic discrimination and ignorance. Today standing at the margins of the civilization, the community is further being pushed by consistent victimization of the youth, in the call of “war against terror” led by America and its “allies”. On an economic graph line, they could be termed as standing right at the breakeven point. Sliding down from there is not affordable.

What lays ahead for Muslims in this country clearly depends on the kind and intensity of struggle they instigate for their survival? In the terms of political ideologies, this can find its evolution through different school of political thoughts, The Liberals, Conservatives, Social Democrats and the Marxists.

While the liberals would argue, on strengthening reforms, within the community and emphasize on community works and not advocate reservation. The social democrats and conservatives would seek solution to the problem by emphasizing on the question of Reservation to Muslims in jobs and education. Marxists on the extreme hand would stick to its old time faith in understanding of classes and class struggle. They will also make a strategic positioning on the issue of Reservations and movement against discrimination and minority witch hunt, which the social democrats would also affiliate with, on a lesser scale.

Equating these positions on a rational meter with the actual plight of Muslims on account of different dynamics, would help us in determining their relevance. Liberals could be apprehended right, when they find reforms and reformists within the community as the solution but a time when discrimination has been quite a visible factor in determining these conditions, Reforms alone could not be a deterrent. The importance of reservation could be well articulated through these words of the Mandal commission report, “to treat unequal’s as equals is to perpetuate inequality, when we allow week and strong to compete on an equal footing, we are loading the dice in favor of the strong and holding only a mock competition in which the weaker partner is destined to failure right from the start”.

Conservatives along with campaigning for reservation for Muslims would argue that existing condition of the community owes to its deviation from the prescribed religious path. This lot believes that the community can achieve salvation only by going back to the religious texts. This would not be a totalitarian and a secular approach to contest a battle against communalism. Marxists, too often would contradict with their positions on demands for reservation of Muslim community as a “whole” and their understanding of an ongoing class struggle .Marxists, would again pay no heed to the importance of initiating reforms within the community. Also considering the wizardly domain of The Indian political class, it would not be wrong to say that at times; over lapping of positions will also be a phenomenon owing to opportunism.

Taking the above calculations in consideration, it would be apt to say that the struggle for bringing Muslims at par cannot be left unorganized and tattering like this. A strong vanguard force is a thrusting demand of the time. There needs to be a, close coordination of different agencies, and organizations, batting against the challenge. A strong central organization has to be architected, with Muslim Identity being its vanguard and supported by other sections of the secular community. The organization shall wage Battle at different fronts simultaneously.

Broadly five different areas can be identified, (1) Reforms within the community (2) Community Financial Units (3) legal networks (4) Cultural and Academic Network (5)  political Leadership

The process of reforms should engage community workers, with bringing children to school and colleges, facilitating scholar ships to the meritorious students of the community besides setting up public welfare facilities. Efforts should also be made, to encourage Muslim Youths in joining public services, judiciary and Media houses.This has to be carried out with a massive plan and large resource mobilization. its importance can be understood in the light of these words of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, In a letter corresponded to his friend, he wrote,” If Muslims don’t take to Modern education, their position in  the  society will not just demarcate, but will reach a point from where it will be impossible for them come back”  this was written more than a century ago.

Setting up community financial units or cooperative banks will also play a vital role at time when Sachar report, clearly specifies that availability of loans and banking facilities are largely not accessible to the Muslim Community. A rich legal set up, will cater to the purpose of immediately providing legal help to those who fall prey to the victimization in the name of Fighting Terror, led by the imperialist America and its allies for serving its vestige purpose. This will also un install a sense of skepticism from the minds of youth, who fear taking part in Radical movements owing to the growing trend of Illegal arrests on charges of terror. Mostly targeting, those who gather courage to question the authorities.

Cultural fronts have dominated the hierarchy in movements since long, they play a revital in adding life to movements, by touching closely on the Mindscapes of the masses, cultural activities is capable of large  mass mobilization , especially of the youths who associate with it more than others. It can be a revolutionary mean of combating the politics of hatred being infected into this pluralistic society. A Strong academic network will bring the sphere of debates around these conditions to the universities, initiating new discourse around issues concerning Muslims.

In the core of these measures, a sincere effort should be made to evolve a charismatic Leadership from the community, dwelling on the existing social conditions which outlay the flow of charisma to be endowed in a personality. The leadership shall largely refrain from indulging in to spiritual matters, for which there are many others in the list and shall at length and breadth focus on the political spectrum encompassing the deprived conditions of the community.

Addressing the question of castes within the community, would also be tedious tasks which should be handled with utmost care, leaving no space for divisions within the community. This remains the biggest and grieves challenge till date.   Apart from all this, the leadership will have to completely desist from getting influenced by any mainstream political party and largely confine itself to issue based mobilization than electoral Mobilizations. A close network with international organization working on the issue of Rights is also a requirement of the prevailing conditions.

(The author is associated Nelson Mandela Center for Conflict Resolution and Peace Building, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi)


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