Muslims in India: How long will they remain marginalized?

By Shamim Akhter,

Two days back I went through a report in BBC website under the title “India state-run banks ‘turn away Muslims’” regarding denial of access to government banks to Muslims in India. The report reveals the truth of the government banks operating in different parts of the country.

The report quotes the National Commission of Minorities as saying that there has been a 100% increase in the number of complaints it has received over the past year from Muslims who say they are being prevented from opening accounts in state-run banks.


[TCN Photo: By Mudassir Rizwan]

On the other hand this is the fact that Muslims make up India’s largest minority community.
BBC writes that reports indicate the worst case took place in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where some 90,000 Muslim students were unable to open accounts to deposit scholarship cheques given to them by the government.

However, some bankers say it is not so much their religious background, but their economic status that makes it hard for Muslims to get banking facilities. It says Muslims’ poor economic status means they are often excluded by private banks, which prefer more well-to-do clients.

Official reports frequently put Muslims at the bottom of India’s social and economic ladder. And already a number of reports have suggested that India’s Muslims fare poorly when it comes to getting access to quality education or employment opportunities.

Not only this, if we talk about the presence of Muslims in government jobs it is more heart-rending.

Today, about 140 million Muslims constitute over 13% of India’s billion-strong population. Since the independence of India in 1947 the percentage of Muslims in government census has remained same, i.e. 12% or 13% or less. But in an interview with “The Hindu” newspaper (Friday, October 01, 1999) Mr. Justice K. M. Yusuf, a retired Judge from Calcutta High Court had said that in his view the total percentage of Muslims in India is at least 20%.

But the appalling fact is that Muslims comprise only 5% of employees in the government of world’s largest democracy. A study says the figure for Indian Railways, the country’s biggest employer, is only 4.5%.

The study continues to reveal that the community continues to have a paltry representation in the bureaucracy and police – more or less 3% in the powerful Indian Civil Service, 1.8% in Foreign Service and only 4% in the Indian Police Service. And Muslims account for only 7.8% of the people working in the judiciary.

Moreover Indian Muslims carry a double burden of being labelled as ‘anti-national’ and as being ‘appeased’ at the same time’, says a three-year back report on the state of Indian Muslims.

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had said, “If India was to be a secular, stable and strong state, then our first consideration must be to give absolute fair play to our minority.”

But what fair play and treatment have been provided to the Muslims of the largest democracy of the world? (The BBC report – India state-run banks ‘turn away Muslims’ reveals partially the truth). Why are we lagging behind in every walk of life? It is the time of self and collective introspection and to find the ways to overcome the appalling state.

(The writer hailing from the state of Bihar in India works in Kabul with Ariana Radio & Television Network, Kabul, Afghanistan)

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