Indian Muslims, the next Dalits of India ?

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Poverty levels among Muslims, the Sachar committee found, remained higher than the national average between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

Muslims in India are even less privileged than members of scheduled caste and scheduled tribes (STs and STs) as they enjoy neither equity nor equality of opportunity, a noted British scholar claimed in 2013.

Delivering Sir Syed Memorial Lecture at Aligarh Muslim University here, Gordon Campbell, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Leicester University in UK, claimed that the condition of Muslims, especially in the field of education, had worsened “in the seven years since the Sachar Committee Report was published”.

“Muslims have been marginalised and have limited access in the field of mainstream education and public sector employment in the country,” said Campbell, who is also the founding Chairman of the Consortium of British Universities in Saudi Arabia.

He, however, lauded some recent initiatives in the sphere of education of Muslims, particularly AMU’s decision “to establish centres of higher education in minority dominated areas of the country including Malappuram and Murshidabad”.

He said, the establishment of these centres was a “bold initiative” taken by the university.

Referring to the policies followed by AMU’s founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Campbell said some people attribute origins of the two nation theory, which ultimately led to the creation of Pakistan, to him.

He, however, pointed out “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan believed in peaceful co-existence and that Hindus and Muslims should form one nation”

On other hand, 8 years after the Sachar committee report on the condition of Muslims and creation of a Ministry of Minority Affairs, a post-Sachar evaluation committee, headed by former JNU professor Amitabh Kundu, has concluded that though a start has been made in addressing development deficits of the community, government interventions have not quite matched in scale the large numbers of the marginalized.

Poverty levels among Muslims, the committee found in 2014, remained higher than the national average between 2004-05 and 2011-12. In terms of consumption expenditure, Muslims are third from the bottom — after the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.

Set up in August 2013 by the UPA government for an evaluation of the status of Muslims after the Sachar committee findings, the Kundu committee was given an extension by the NDA government in 2014. It submitted its report to the Ministry of Minority Affairs in October 2014 but there has been slow movement thereafter.

This is a summary of the Kundu committee report:

 * The committee recommends enactment of an anti-discrimination legislation to prohibit discrimination based on disability, sex, caste, religion to move away from quotas and quota politics. This is in line with “a paradigm shift in India’s approach to equality. Moving beyond reservations, they use diversity promotion and anti-discrimination to achieve social justice. Reservations are only one of several tools to address widespread, systematic discrimination in a society. Diversity index and anti-discrimination legislation together can help build a more equitable society and a deeper and more widespread notion of equality that go beyond group-specific quotas and accompanying quota politics.”

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* It chronicles the phenomenon of “exclusionary urbanisation” with a decline in the share of Muslims in the rural-urban migration that was first noted in the 1990s and continues unabated. The percentage increase of Muslims in the urban population is low and the community is particularly under-represented in smaller urban centres where social factors and discrimination restrict mobility. The share of minorities in government employment remains low – less than half of the share of their total population in the country. The committee has recommended “government-led planned and targeted recruitment drives in a time-bound manner.”

* The committee notes that the natural advantage which Muslims have in initial health indicators like sex ratio, higher life-expectancy at birth, better child survival, are squandered away because of lack of equal health care access and amenities. “Inadequacy of health care infrastructure in Muslim areas, as hifundsghlighted in the Sachar Committee report, has not been addressed despite initiating specific schemes.”

* Schemes under the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme are plagued by lack of funds. Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) asked for Rs 58,000 crore under the 12th Five-Year-Plan but the actual outlay was fixed at only Rs 17,323 crore. The committee recommends expansion of the 15-point programme to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.

* Of the 37 government ministries and departments whose employment data was analysed, the minorities, on an average, constituted 7.5% of new recruitment in Group A services between 2006-07 and 2012-13, 9.1% in Group B Services, 8.6% each in Group C and D services.

* Despite lower levels of literacy among Muslims than Hindus, Muslims have lower gender disparity in terms of education. Outcome indicators for Muslims at all levels of education are closer to the ST community. Though enrollment of Muslim children in primary schools is high, there is also a very high dropout rate so the community, irrespective of gender or rural-urban residence, is less likely to attain secondary and higher secondary education.

After divorced ,only 21% Muslim women remarries.

In India, for every divorced Muslim man, there are four divorced Muslim women, an IndiaSpend analysis of Census 2011 data shows.

Across religious communities, except Sikhs, there are more divorced women than men. But the gender skew is particularly sharp among Muslims (79:21), followed by ‘other religions’ (72:28), and Buddhists (70:30).

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Among divorced Indian women, 68% are Hindu, and 23.3%, Muslims, according to Census 2011 data on the marital status of Indians. The data were recently cited by Muslim groups protesting the national law commission’s formulation of a uniform civil code, especially a ban on triple talaq, according to this report in The Hindu.

Among divorced men, Hindus account for 76%, and Muslims, 12.7%. Both Christian women and men cover 4.1% of their gender-respective divorced groups.

What do the ratios imply?

Women’s rights activists believe that the gender imbalance in the numbers implies that more men than women are remarrying. “If there are 100 divorced couples, it should show a 50:50 sex ratio. The skewed ratio plainly shows that after divorce, not only is it easier for men to remarry but also that they show a greater need or want to remarry,” Flavia Agnes, legal scholar and women’s rights activist, told IndiaSpend in a telephonic interview.

The skewed ratio among Muslims could be attributed to two problems, according to Hasina Khan, founder of the Bebaak Collective, a Muslim women’s organisation based in Mumbai. “The first is the absolute powers given to men under the Muslim Personal Laws by allowing triple talaq and so on. For women, getting married provides security of shelter and food with few rights for negotiation,” she said.

The other reason is the state’s failure to empower Muslim women, she added.

“There is little political will to address the needs of this sub-group. The socio-economic condition of Muslim women in India continues to deteriorate with inadequate access to good education, job opportunities and so on,” Khan said.

Maharashtra has most divorced women

With a total population of 8.5 lakh divorced persons, the census recorded more failed marriages in rural India where a higher proportion of the nation’s population still resides. In urban India, there were 5.03 lakh divorced persons.

Maharashtra, with 2.09 lakh persons, recorded the highest number of divorced citizens. The second-most populous state also holds the largest disproportion of men-to-women divorcees. About 73.5%–or 1.5 lakh–divorced persons in the state are women.

 The highest population of divorced men in the country – 1.03 lakh – reside in Gujarat, accounting for 54% of the state’s divorced population.

The triple talaq debate

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On October 7, 2016, the National Law Commission published a list of 16 questions seeking public opinion on the need for a uniform civil code for India. Apart from probing citizens’ perception of gender equality in prevalent personal laws across religions, a question asked if the practice of triple talaq should be abolished, continued or amended. Another question sought views on strengthening Hindu women’s rights to inherit property.

The Muslim Personal Law Board has criticised the legal panel’s exercise, claiming the law commission is not acting independent of the central government that opposed the triple talaq law in Supreme Court the same day. Responding to a batch of public interest litigations filed by NGOs and women’s rights groups on the issue, the Centre said the practice cannot be regarded as an essential part of religion, according to this Times of India report .

“There are gender discriminatory personal laws across India’s religious communities – not merely among Muslims. Though it claims to aid vulnerable sections, the law commission’s plans for the uniform civil code do not deal with these in the right spirit. The uniformity it speaks of would only dilute India’s plural cultures while bringing in the same patriarchal bias,” Khan said.

Disclaimer :- All statistics and data has been collected from various news sources and appointed panel committees. 

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