Muslims have now become ‘Neo- Dalits’ in Indian Society

Just few days back, a book titled ‘Denial and Deprivation: Indian Muslims after the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission reports’, authored by Mr. Abdur Rahman who is currently civil servant (IPS) of Maharashtra cadre, was released by the Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha, a renowned academician and currently Member of Parliament Rajya Sabha from RJD at the Indian Islamic culture Centre on 8th February 2019,

The meeting was presided by the Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood (President, Zakat Foundation of India) and Mr. Shah Faesal, Ex-IAS officer who was also present as the guest of honour. Besides, the meeting was also overwhelmingly attended by the students and academics belonging to JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. While making his initial remarks, Prof. Jha has said that we should not look at the Muslim community as ‘homogeneous lot’, but like other communities, Muslims are also divided into the lines of caste and class.

This book under review has vividly underlined that the successive governments have not done serious efforts to implement the recommendations made by Sachar committee report (SCR: 2006), Rangnath Mishra Commission (RMC: 2007) and finally Prof. Amitabh Kundu committee (2014). To note that both reports henceforth SCR&RMC came into the public domain under the initiative of the then PM Manmohan Singh led by UPA-I government. The volume has noted that as far as implementation of recommendations made by both reports is concerned, the previous the so-called secular regime is bleak and unsatisfactory. The book in the light of academic discourse around SRC&RMC underlined that for the first time since independence, the discourse around minority rights, especially with respect to the Muslim community, had shifted from ‘security’ to the ‘development’.

It is unfortunate to note that since the Modi led BJP government has captured power at the Centre in 2014, party senior leaders have said that Sachar & Mishra reports and their recommendations are based on the ‘communal approach’ solely because of both reports have only talked about problems and issues of Muslim community and hence, bypassed completely the other minorities concerns like Sikh, Jain and Christians etc. In addition to this, the BJP-RSS combine has often said that both reports are constituted by the Congress party to ‘appease’ the Muslim community and captures community votes and therefore, not committed for the genuine development of Muslim community.

Under the leadership of PM Modi, the BJP leaders often made the tall claim that we believe in Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, appeasement of none and development of all. Contrary to these claims, the current volume has noted that the BJP-RSS combine has ideologically opposed the both SCR &RMC reports. Besides, this work has also mentioned that during the BJP rule, incidents like mob-violence, lynching, hate crimes and discriminations against the Muslim community has been increased tremendously.

Having made these initial remarks, in what follows I am going to discuss the relevant points made by the Rahman in his several chapters. In this small review essay, I am not interested in giving a detailed analysis of the book but here an attempt has been made to expose the manner in which communal forces have created false propaganda around both reports. While doing so, I have also made my own critical remarks. Let me add here little caveat that while showing the sympathy towards Rahman’s work, I have also expressed my slight disagreements with regards to issues like lack of internal democracy to deal with the questions foregrounded by Pasmanda movements, Muslim women. secondly the volume is silent to understand the impact of neo-liberal Hindutva on the extremely poor Muslims. It is to be noted that both reports have also not paid serious attention to these questions. That is why Pasmanda leaders and Muslim feminist scholars have shown some reservations with respect to both reports. Knowingly or unknowingly Rahman has too missed these points raised by the ‘internal oppressed minorities’ which move around the caste and gender questions within the Muslim community.

Broadly speaking, the present volume in the introductory chapter has covered and reviewed critically the discourses around the reports launched by community leaders and think-tank organizations along with the secular-minded public intellectuals in the larger public and political sphere after more than eleven years of the publication of SCR& RMC. To be very precise, the community leaders, progressive academics and social activists have welcomed both reports. From chapter-4 to10, the themes and issues like minorities rights, myth around Muslims population(as falsely propagated by Communal forces), Urdu, Madrasas, socio-educational conditions, and access to bank credit etc. have been touched and critically reviewed in the light of SCR& RMC recommendations along with larger discourse took place in the civil society groups.

Moreover, chapter -11 to 16 have discussed and critically analyses the pertinent issues like social and physical infrastructure, poverty, unemployment rampant in the Muslim community, Wakf properties and debates around the affirmative action’s based on the latest data. Unlike myth widely spread by Hindu Right, Rahman in these chapters has shown that the socio-economic and educational conditions of Indian Muslims remain extremely pathetic. Besides, the author has successfully debunked the false arguments often propagated by communal forces that there is a rampant growth of the Muslim population. In addition to this, the last three chapters- from 17 to 19 are devoted to critically assess and evaluate the status of implementations of both reports like SCR&RMC after the 11 years have been passed. In this respect, the present volume has underlined that successive governments have not paid serious attention to implement the recommendations.

Contrary to this, BJP, RSS, and VHP etc., have ideologically opposed the said reports which are supposed to uplift the socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslim Community (P-462). In chapter-19, titled , ‘ Reports after  two reports’ has discussed about the constitution of another committee under the chairmanship of  Prof. Amitabh Kundu (known as Post-Sachar Evolution Committee, PSEC) to evaluate and assess the SCR recommendations and PM,s 15 point programmes including policies measures initiated by Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) and other ministries too.(P-468). As Rahman underlined that Prof. Kundu has submitted its final report on 9 October 2014 to then Minority Minister Najma Heptulla. Broadly speaking, Prof Kundu on the basis of SCR recommendations said that government must develop equal opportunity commission (EOC) and Diversity index, and anti-discrimination legislation to stop discriminations based on sex, caste, religion, disability (P-469). In other words, Contrary to communal forces, Prof. Kundu has said also elsewhere that SCR is not for solely Muslim Community, its final vision to build up ‘inclusive’ idea of Idea as envisaged by the Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar long ago. (See, Badre Alam, & Shahid Alam, “Post –Sachar Discourse: Search for an inclusive idea of India”, Mainstream, August11, 2018).

In the concluding chapters, Rahman has critically reviewed the status of implementation of recommendations made by said reports. Besides, the author has also underlined the ‘hostile attitude’ of the BJP government towards both reports along with the saga of denial and deprivation made by successive so-called secular governments since independence.

Rahman in this book has given some constructive opinions to overcome extremely sad situations of Indian Muslims.  For instance, he underlined that Muslim problems must be seen as not different from national problems. In the concluding section, he urges Muslims to acquired modern knowledge and respect others opinions and maintain a tolerant and democratic attitude towards other fellow human beings. While citing the points made by former Vice-president, Rahman writes, ‘M. Hamid Ansari advises Muslims to revisit its own tenets to retrieve traditions of ijtihad and Maslaha in order to confidently negotiate modernity’ ( P-503-504).

In a similar way, Dr. Abusaleh Shrarif has reminded us about the growth stories of India and the pathetic conditions of Muslims. As Sharif writes,
 ‘The rate of growth is the slowest for Muslims when compared to all other communities. If this slow rate of growth continues inequality will increase and Muslims will be left behind and become the neo-Dalits of India’. (Cited in Rahman book, p-486)

   In short, the author has highlighted the dismal role and performances of successive governments in these areas and fact remains that nothing concrete has been done to improve the pathetic conditions of the community. However, while discussing the commitment of secular and communal parties and organizations (like RSS, VHP and Shiv Sena etc.) the volume has made important distinctions. The book in several places noted that communal forces have opposed said reports ideologically. While citing the studies done by Centre for Equity Studies (Promise to keep) by Harsh Mandar, a well-known social activist, and former civil servant, the author has noted that nothing solid and concrete had been done by the successive governments at the ground level and still community faced “development deficits”.

As eminent sociologist like Imtiaz Ahmad and noted academic historian like Romila Thapar have consistently noted that religious communities in India were not historically ‘homogeneous lot’ as often claimed by the conservative and communal forces associated with both Hindu and Muslims clerical groups. In this respect, the present volume while citing both reports has also addressed these issues and put-forward that within Muslim community there is an Ashraf(upper-caste Muslims), Ajlaf(OBCs Muslims) and Arzal( Dalit Muslims) like caste and social stratifications could be noticed.

However, Hindutva forces and their ideologue like Rakesh Sinha now Rajya Sabha M.P has rejected the recommendations of both SCR&RMC along with several lower caste Muslim organizations demand to give the reservation to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Chirstians. For communal forces, unlike the Hindu religion in Islam and Christianity, social evils like caste system and practice of untouchability are not theologically sanctified.  In contrast to Hindu Right, it is surprising to note that even in the Sikhism and Buddhism; one cannot say that the caste system is derived from their scriptures. However, both religious denominations have got the reservation and included in the fold of SCs through amending Article 341/3 in 1956 and in 1990 respectively. In this respect, Rahman rightly observes, ‘most of anthologists have accepted the presence of Dalits in Muslim and Christian communities. The Constitution (SC) Order, 1950 is a black spot on the Constitution and against the basic structure of secularism and freedom of religions’ (P-464).

It is ironical to note that recently Modi led BJP government has ignored the Constitutional and legal norms and given10 percent reservation to the economically poor upper-caste, to woo their votes in the upcoming general election 2019. In short on the basis of aforementioned arguments, one could argue that the BJP-RSS combine has always ‘communal perspective’ and politically motivated vis-s-vis giving reservations to Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christens rather than guided by the Constitutional moral values, as also underlined by present volume in several places. However, it also needs to be kept in mind that the commitment of secular and social justice parties like SP-BSP with respect to giving reservations to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are not worthy to appreciate and often they had also ignored the demands of these subaltern classes.

While discussing an issue related to the political representation, the present volume has shown that due to ‘De-limitation’ and First-past-the post-election methods Muslim community is not able to get due political representations in a communalized political space. According to populations, Muslims should get elected at least 77 MPs. However, it is sad to note that currently in Lok Sabha there are only 24 Muslims MPs which underlined the huge political deprivations of community (P-494).

While addressing the gathering at the India Today conclave, in Mumbai, recently Congress former president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has also accepted publically that we have lost 2014 Lok Sabha election because of the BJP is managed to convinced larger Hindu masses that the Congress party is pro-Muslims and anti-Hindu. (‘BJP managed to convince people we are a Muslim party: Sonia Gandhi’, The Indian Express March 10, 2018). That is why political commentator noted that Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat and elsewhere, have not talked anything about Indian Muslims. On the contrary, due to the pressure of Hindutva forces, he deliberately mentioned his caste name (he said that I am also jenuedhari Brahmin) and visited the several temples to proof his Hinduness. These steps taken by Gandhi could be seen as growing ‘soft-Hindutva’ elements within the Congress party.

After Sonia Gandhi statements, an acrimonious debate took place in the Indian Expresses, namely between Harsh Mander, a social activist (‘Sonia, Sadly’, IE, March 17, 2018) and Ramchandra Guha, (‘Liberals sadly’, IE, March 24 2018) a renowned social historian of modern India which was later joined by other scholars too. In this respect, Mander has said that for the first time since partition, Muslims have become politically ‘untouchable’ in Indian society.

While discussing the reports in chapter-2, Rahman has mentioned the Maulana  Altaf Hussain  Hali beautiful couplets to vividly describe the pathetic condition of Indian Muslim after the 1857 war of independence. As Hali laments,

Na ahl-e hukumat ka humraz hai hum
Na darbarioon main Sarfaraz hain ham
 Na ilmon main shayan-i izzat hain ham
Na Sanat main hirfat main mumtaz hain ham
Na rakhte hain kunch manzilat naukri main
Na hisa hamara hain saudagari main
[We are not trusted by the government,
Nor are we among the prominent courtiers of the ruler
Neither are we among the educated elite
We have no share in a trade or the industry
Nor do you find us in the civil services
Or in the Business] (cited by Rahman, p-46)

To note that the above couplets of Hali still seem to be relevant simply because of the most of the committee reports constituted by the successive governments like Gopal Sing report (1983), SCR (2006) and RMC (2007) have revealed that Muslim socio-economic and educational conditions are worse than all socio-religious groups.

So the question arises in a given political context, what strategies should be adopted by Indian Muslim to address the current pathetic conditions( like political, social economic and religious marginalization which currently Indian Muslim is facing an author has also underlined in his book, some insights have been clearly discussed and articulated in Rahman’s book. Like Muslims must focused on modern educations, fight for political representations, launch agitation for reservation,  draw lessons from South Indian model for development, shun radical ideology and use RTI etc., for the advancement of community concerns and individual growth too. Besides this, few constructive points made by an author like to draw some insights from Dalit-Bahujan movements, resistance and struggle (p-500), and think on those lines to mainly initiate reform within the community and thereby articulate community concerns in the larger public-political sphere from the vantage-point of constitutional and democratic values.

To note that in the globalized world, ‘neo-liberal Hindutva’ is spreading by having nexus with crony capitalism is also largely affecting Indian poor Muslims masses too; the author has not dealt with this issues in his volume.

Yet, in spite of some limitations, this is the first book in my view as far as analysis of Indian Muslims problems and issues in the light of SCR and RMC recommendations; one must go through to understand the pathetic conditions of the largest minority of the country like India. This volume has successfully put-together the discourse around SCR and RMC which have taken place in the post-Sachar era. Therefore, I particularly recommend to the scholars, journalists, politicians, community leaders including a general reader must read it, to understand the complex problems and issues of Indian Muslims and politics played out in the public domain.

The author is a research scholar at Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. I am particularly grateful to Wakeel Ahmad research scholar who has done his Ph.D from JMI for reading the draft and giving thoughtful comments and suggestions.




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