The Condition of Indian Muslims: Issues and Challenges Download

Sohail Akhtar


The Indian Muslims are educationally backward, economically poor and politically marginalized community. Their representation is not in proportion to their population. Their condition is above SCs and STs but below Hindu General, Hindu OBCs and Other Minorities communities of all indicators of development. They are living in very plight condition in India. This paper is based on the secondary data. The main objective of the study is to find out the social-economic condition and political empowerment of Muslims of India. Although there is lack of literature and data after Sachar Committee about this classified as backward community, it is an attempt to gather the data from various sources and put together in a systematic fashion and analyzed. Indicators such as population, urban population, sex ratio, literacy, educational attainment, work participation rate and political representation are discussed. Hence, one can easily understand the plight of the community who are the victims of a process of invidious discrimination in Indian society.   


A Minority Commission was established in post-independent India in 1978, and subsequently in 1980 a high-powered committee was formed under the chairmanship of Dr. V. A. Syed Mohammad. Later Dr. Gopal Singh (parliamentarian and a noted diplomat) took over as the Chairman with Khurshid Alam Khan as the secretary. This Committee submitted its 119 pages Report on June 14, 1983. This Report discussed the condition of minorities as well as other backward sections of our society. Dr. Gopal Singh Committee made wide-ranging short and long-term recommendations, but the Report never saw the light of the day. Then in 1995, the Minority Commission on its own collected substantial amount of data and information which reflected the fact that the condition of Muslims was quite deplorable and their representation in jobs much disproportionate to their population in various states. Again in 1996, a 12-member strong Sub-Committee of the Planning Commission while raising the concern over the deplorable condition of minorities observed that, “…the representation of minorities, especially Muslims, in the states and at the central level is disproportionate to their proportion and to correct the imbalance till now no specific action has been taken” (Hassan, 2006).

After the Gopal Singh Committee report of the early 1980s, we now have more comprehensive information, thanks to Rajindar Sachar’s report, on the socio-economic condition of India’s 156 million Indian Muslims. One-third of the world’s Muslims, the Indian Muslims constitute 13.4 per cent of the country’s population. While preparing the report, the committee visited almost all the states and received representations on their conditions, grievances and demands. The committee has done commendable work by disaggregating some of the data in a meaningful way. With all the limitations that quantitative data have, this information will help policy formulation. But the aggregate statistics often tends to miss the complexities on the ground. Individual micro-studies could have addressed this limitation. Though the committee did commission four studies as background papers, all of them dealt with secondary quantitative data. Unfortunately, the mainstream social science departments in the universities and research institutes have done very little empirical studies on Muslims. The contribution of the two major Muslim universities and the research centers on Islamic studies in this field has also been negligible (Shah, 2007: 836).

Identity Related Issues of Muslims

Apparently, the social, cultural and public interactive spaces in India can be very daunting for the Indian Muslims. The general sense of unease among Muslims can be seen on a number of fronts in the relationships that exist between the Muslims and other Socio- Religious Communities (SRCs), as well as, in the variations in understanding and interpreting them. One aspect of this understanding relates to patriotism. They carry a double burden of being labeled as “anti-national” (Pro-Pakistan) and as being “appeased” at the same time. While Muslims need to prove on a daily basis that they are not “anti-national” and “terrorists”, it is not recognized that the alleged “appeasement” has not resulted in the desired level of socio-economic development of the Community. In general, Muslims complained that they are constantly looked upon with a great degree of suspicion not only by certain sections of society but also by public institutions and governance structures. This has a depressing effect on their psyche. Many Indian Muslims has also felt that the media has being sold by the established government and tends to perpetuate the stereotypical image of the Muslims. They play an important role for character assassination of Muslims particularly Mullah and Moulavis (Sachar Committee, 2006: 11).

One of the major issues around the question of identity for Indian Muslims is about being identified as ‘a Muslim’ in public spaces. Being identified as a Muslim is considered to be problematic for many. Markers of Muslim Identity — the burqa, the purdah, the beard, and the topi and sherwani-while adding to the distinctiveness of Indian Muslims have been a cause of concern for them in the public realm. These markers have very often been a target for ridiculing the community as well as of looking upon them with suspicion. Muslim men donning a beard and a topiare often picked up for interrogation from public spaces like parks, railway stations and markets. Some women who interacted with the Committee informed how in the corporate offices hijab wearing Muslim women were finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs. Muslim women in burqa complain of impolite treatment in the market, in hospitals, in schools, in accessing public facilities such as public transport and so on(Sachar Committee, 2006: 12).

Muslim identity affects everyday living in a variety of ways that ranges from being unable to rent/buy a house to accessing good schools for their children. Buying or renting property in localities of one’s choice is becoming increasingly difficult for Muslims. Apart from the reluctance of owners to rent/sell property to Muslims, several housing societies in “non-Muslim” localities ‘dissuade’ Muslims from locating there.Muslim identity also comes in the way of admitting their children to good educational institutions. This has given rise to a number of Muslim denominational schools, which according to some, are the only source of good education for Muslims today. A large majority of Muslims would apparently prefer to send their children to ‘regular mainstream’ schools. It was argued that while setting up of denominational institutions is a right of minorities under the Constitution, it was not meant to become their only option.

Security Related Issues of Muslims

Lack of a sense of security and a discriminatory attitude towards Muslims is felt widely. However, there is considerable variation in the gravity, intensity and magnitude of such a feeling across various states. Communal tension or any untoward incident in any part of the country is enough to make Muslims fear for their safety and security. The lackadaisical attitude of the government and the political mileage sought whenever communal riots occur has been very painful for the Community. The governmental inaction in bringing to book the perpetrators of communal violence has been a sore point. On the other hand, the police, along with the media, overplay the involvement of Muslims in violent activities and underplay the involvement of other groups or organizations. There is an underlying feeling of injustice in the context of compensation to riot victims. It was also suggested that the amount of compensation fixed by the government post riots has been discriminatory against the Muslims. Besides, there is also delay in giving compensation to the victims, especially when they happen to be Muslims.

Concern was expressed over police highhandedness in dealing with Muslims. Muslims live with an inferiority complex as “every bearded man is considered an ISI agent”; “whenever any incident occurs Muslim boys are picked up by the police” and fake encounters are common. In fact, people argued that police presence in Muslim localities is more common than the presence of schools, industry, public hospitals and banks. Security personnel enter Muslim houses on the slightest pretext. The plight of Muslims living in border areas is even worse as they are treated as ‘foreigners’ and are subjected to harassment by the police and administration.Violent, communal conflicts, especially like some recent ones in a state, in which there is large-scale targeted sexual violence against Muslim women has a spread affect even in regions of the country not directly affected by the violence. There is immense fear, a feeling of vulnerability, and consequently a visible impact on mobility and education, especially of girls. The lack of adequate Muslim presence in the police force accentuates this problem in almost all Indian states as it heightens the perceived sense of insecurity, especially in a communally sensitive situation.

Fearing for their security, Muslims are increasingly resorting to living in ghettos across the country. This is more pronounced in communally sensitive towns and cities. However, while living in ghettos seems to be giving them a sense of security because of their numerical strength, it has not been to the advantage of the Community. It was suggested that Muslims living together in concentrated pockets (both because of historical reasons and a deepening sense of insecurity) has made them easy targets for neglect by municipal and government authorities. Water, sanitation, electricity, schools, public health facilities, banking facilities, Anganwadis, ration shops, roads, and transport facilities-are all in short supply in these areas. In the context of increasing ghettoization, the absence of these services impacts Muslim women the most because they are reluctant to venture beyond the confines of ‘safe’ neighborhoods to access these facilities from elsewhere. Increasing ghettoization of the Community implies a shrinking space for it in the public sphere; an unhealthy trend that is gaining ground. Social boycott of Muslims in certain parts of the country has forced Muslims to migrate from places where they lived for centuries; this has affected their employability and means of earning a livelihood. Ghettoization, therefore, has multiple adverse effects: inadequacy of infrastructural facilities, shrinking common spaces where different SRCs can interact and reduction in livelihood options.

Equity Related Issues of Muslims

The feeling of being a victim of discriminatory attitudes is high amongst Muslims, particularly amongst the youth. From poor civic amenities in Muslim localities, non-representation in positions of political power and the bureaucracy, to police atrocities committed against them-the perception of being discriminated against is overpowering amongst a wide cross section of Muslims. Besides, there is a perception that the socio-cultural diversity of India is often not articulated in school textbooks. This sense of discrimination combined with issues of identity and insecurity has led to an acute sense of inferiority in the Community which comes in the way of its full participation in the public arena and results in collective alienation.

Educational Condition of Indian Muslims

At the time of adopting the Constitution the Indian state had committed itself to provide elementary education under Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State policy. Article 45 stated that “The State shall endeavor to provide within aperiod of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free andcompulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteenyears. Subsequently in 2002 education as a fundamental right was endorsed through the 86th amendment to the Constitution. Article (21-A) states that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of theage six to fourteen years in such a way as the State may, by law, determine”. The 86thAmendment also modified Article 45 which now reads as “The state shallendeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until theycomplete the age of 6 years”. However, despite this commitment the number of children in this age group who have remained out of school is alarmingly large.It shows that Muslims are at a double disadvantage with low levels of education combined with low quality education; their deprivation increases manifold as the level of education rises.

The role of the economy in facilitating social and economic development has been accepted today. Improvements in the functional and analytical ability of children and youth through education open up opportunities leading to both individual as well as group empowerment. Despite overall improvement in educational status, the rate of progress has been the slowest for Muslims. In other words, while educational attainments of Muslims has improved over period of years, it has done so at a more gradual pace than other Socio-Religious Categories so that the expected convergence has not occurred. Instead, the gap between Muslims and advantaged section actually widened since independence and particularly since the 1980s. At the time of independence, the socio-economic position of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) was recognized to be inferior to that of Muslims. Apparently, Muslim has not been able to reap the benefit of planning and have gradually slipped further and further behind other socio religious categories (Sachar Committee, 2006:50-52).

The most commonly used estimate of educational development is literacy which is in the census. When British rule ended in India in the year in 1947 the literacy was just 12 percent. Just about 64.08 percent of India’s population is literate in 2001 but it has increased in 74.04 in 2011 census. Literacy levels are expectedly higher for males 82.14 percent and for females 65.46 percent. Literacy is also higher in urban areas 84.01 percent than in rural areas 67.08 percent. This gap of about 16.03 percent between urban and rural and across gender has been a persistent feature of Indian society over the last two decades despite the increase in literacy levels during this period. The sex ration of India was 933in 2001 as increased 940 in 2011. Muslim population in India has grown by 24 percent between 2001 and 2011 against the national average of 18 percent with the community’s representation rising to 14.23 percent from 13.4 percent of total population.Among all states in the country, Jammu and Kashmir has the highest Muslim population (68.3 percent), followed by Assam (34.2percent) and West Bengal (27percent), according to the census data on the population of religious groups.The literacy rate among the Muslims in 2011 was 60 percent. This is far below the national average 74.4 percent. In urban areas literacy is lower for Muslims 70.1 percent than the national average (84.1 percent) and in rural areas literacy is 65.67 percent for Muslims which is also below the national average (58.7 percent). Muslims women with a literacy level of 50 percent have been able to keep with women with other communities and are much ahead of the SCs, STs and women in rural India. The sex ration among Muslims is 951 in 2011 (Census: 2011).

As mentioned earlier, education is an area of grave concern for the Muslim Community. The popular perception that religious conservatism among Muslims is a major factor for not accessing education is incorrect. The recognition of their educational backwardness is quite acute amongst a large section of Indian Muslims and they wish to rectify it urgently. There is a significant internal debate about how this should be done. Private minority institutions and Madrassa are seen as the only option available to the community for improving the educational status of the Muslim community. However, others find these to be questionable alternatives pursued by the State neglecting its own responsibility. Relying predominantly on Madrassa and denominational institutions for improving the educational status of Muslims was also seen by some as violating the spirit of the Constitution.

High dropout rates among Muslim students are worrisome. As with many Indians, the main reason for educational backwardness of Muslims is abject poverty due to which children are forced to drop out after the first few classes. This is particularly true for not only for Muslim boys but Muslim girls. Little children are expected to provide for their families by working in karkhanas (small workshops), as domestic help or by looking after their siblings while their mothers goes out for work. It was not felt that the incidence of child labour was much higher among Muslims as compared to other SRCs. Poor and illiterate parents cannot afford tuition for their children; nor can they provide the necessary support system at home which has become so essential a part of today’s educational system. The opportunity costs involved in sending children to school is also too high, making it difficult for parents to do so(Sachar Committee, 2006: 15).

Many complained that only a few good quality schools, especially Government schools, are found in Muslim areas. The teacher pupil ratio is also high in these schools. This forces Muslim children to go to private schools, if they can afford to, or else to drop out. Schools beyond the primary level are few in Muslim localities. Exclusive girls’ schools are fewer, and are usually at a distance from Muslim localities. This has its repercussions because after any incident of communal violence parents pull out their girls from school fearing their security. Lack of hostel facilities is another limiting factor, especially for girls. This problem gets compounded by the fact that people are unwilling to give rooms on rent to Muslim students. In any case, spending on separate residential facilities, in the absence of hostels, is a great financial burden on Muslim families as rents for accommodation are very high.

Government schools that do exist in Muslim neighborhoods are merely centers of low quality education for the poor and marginalized. The poor quality of teaching, learning, absentee teachers, in turn, necessitate high cost inputs like private tuitions, particularly in the case of first generation learners from the Muslim community. This has a negative impact on retention and school completion. Thus, poverty again has a causal link with access to education among Muslims. The “communal” content of school textbooks, as well as, the school ethos has been a major cause for concern for Muslims in some states. This is disconcerting for the school going Muslim child who finds a complete absence of any representation of her Community in the school text. Moreover, many schools are culturally hostile and Muslim students experience an atmosphere of marginalization and discrimination. It is also alleged that it is not easy for Muslims to get jobs as teachers. Besides, Muslim teachers are often treated badly. The transfer of Muslim teachers to schools at a great distance is not uncommon. Discriminatory stoppage of salaries of Muslim teachers has also been alleged. It has been reported that in some locations, Hindu parents refuse to let their children go to schools where there are Muslim teachers(Sachar Committee, 2006: 16).

It was also found that the Madrassa is established by the Muslims community which ensures that its future generations acquire knowledge of Islam, have become a symbol of Muslim identity in India. Often they are looked upon with suspicion by the wider society, despite the fact that they are involved in providing religious education to the Muslim community. Labeling of Madrassa as a den for terrorists is extremely worrisome for the Muslim community. Even though there has been no evidence to suggest that Madrassa are producing terrorists they are constantly under scrutiny. Many madrassas student were picking up by the police on the name of terrorism only for interrogation but due to lack evidence they were released by the court. This exercise, even as it is insulting to the Community, has a detrimental and traumatic impact on the children studying in the Madrassa. It has been pointed out that the existence of Madrassa (though not as a substitute for regular schools) is necessary for Muslims as, apart from providing basic education, they serve as an important instrument of identity maintenance for the Community. Many a time Madrassa are the only educational option available to mostly poor Muslim children, especially in areas where no schools have reached the Muslim masses. Very often children go to the Madrassa not out of choice but due to non-availability and inaccessibility of other schools, and a near absence of education in their mother tongue.

A small proportion (4%) of Muslim children also attends Madrasas. It is often believed that a large proportion of Muslim children study in Madrasas, mostly to get acquainted with the religious discourse and ensure the continuation of Islamic culture and social life. A persistent belief nurtured, in the absence of statistical data and evidence, is that Muslim parents have a preference for religious education leading to dependence on Madrasas. It is also argued that education in Madrasas often encourages religious fundamentalism and creates a sense of alienation from the mainstream. The study also indicates that 2.3 % of Muslim children aged 7-19 years who study in Madrasas. The committee also found that the non-availability of education in the Urdu language is seen by some as one of the reason for the low educational status of Muslims in India. Most of the books in the colleges and universities are in western language so that the Muslims could not understand easily as because their medium of instructions is Urdu. It may be the one of the reason of Muslims backwardness in Indian. The number of Urdu medium school is very low in most states. This can be seen from the low percentage of the children enrolled in Urdu medium(Sachar Committee, 2006: 76).

It was also found by the committee that, on an average, a child goes to school for only four years. The mean year of schooling of Muslims is the lowest (about three years four months). A comparison across socio-religious categories, both by gender and place of residence also reveals consistently lower levels of mean year schooling for the Muslim community. The increase in enrolment is observed for all SRCs, the increase has been thehighest among SCs/STs (95 percent), followed by Muslims (65 percent). Thoughthis substantial increase has not really changed the relative position of Muslims interms of ranks, the gaps among SRCs have narrowed dramatically.Muslim had the lowest enrolment rate among all socio religious categories except SCs and STs and this rate was 78 percent of the average enrolment rates for the population as a whole. As many as, 25 percent of Muslim children in the 6-14 year group have either never attended school or have dropped out. This is higher than that of any other socio religious categories. The incident of dropouts is also high among Muslims and only SCs and STs have a marginally high dropout rate than Muslim(Sachar Committee, 2006:56-58).

In general, differential in school education attainment across the socio-religious categories are significant in both in rural and urban areas. Typically, the attainment levels of Muslims are closer to or slightly higher than those of SCs and STs. However, in the aggregate, the attainment levels of Muslims in rural areas are often lower than those of SCs and STs. This is essentially because the educational attainments of Muslim women in rural areas are lower than those of SCs and STs women. While 26 percent of those 17 years and above have completed matriculation, this percentage is only 17 amongst Muslims. As was the case for literacy, even at the matriculation levels, expansion of educational opportunities since independence has not led to a convergence of attainment levels between Muslims and all others (Sachar Committee, 2006:59-60).

The first striking feature is that the probability of completing different levels of school education (primary, middle and secondary etc.) has increased for all communities during 1983-2000. The sharpest rise has been in the probability of completing middle school for all communities including Muslims. But differences still exist and the Muslims and SCs and STs are behind other on an average based on four year data, about 62 percent of the eligible children in the forward caste Hindu and other religious groups (excluding Muslims) are likely to complete primary education followed by the Muslims (44 percent), SCs (39 percent) and STs (32 percent). However, once children complete primary education, the proportion of children completing middle school is the same (65 percent) for Muslims, SCs and STs but lower than all others (75 percent). Interestingly in the transition from secondary to college education, Muslim perform somewhat better than SCs and STs, while only 23 percent of SCs and STs student who complete secondary are likely to complete college education. This percentage is 26 for Muslims and 34 for other groups (Sachar Committee, 2006:62).

In India, a significant proportion of the relevant population still remains deprived of the benefit of higher education, and the Muslim comprises of an important category of the deprived communities according to census data. The SCs, STs and Muslims are the most disadvantaged as their respective shares are much lower than their share in the population.  In the case of Muslims, their share in graduates is 6 percent while their share in populating aged 20 years and above is about double at over 11 percent. In the case of Muslim the attainment is less than half compared to all others and the gap is much more prominent in urban areas for both man and women.  The graduates is even lower with only about 2 in every 1000 persons being a technicalgraduate, the performance of Muslims is worse than all SRCs, except SCs/STs, witha sharp differential existing in urban areas and amongst males.Diploma courses correspond to a lower level of education and skill formation buteven at this low level of technical education the overall pattern remains the samewith Muslims not doing very well amongst the SRCs, except when compared withthe SCs/STs (Sachar Committee, 2006:65-67).

It is important to note that data on candidates taking CAT examinations and respective scores according to SRCs were not made available to the Committee as these are not compiled by these institutions. Stage-2 data on the number of Muslims students called for interview, and those selected at stage-3 was used to calculate the rate of success. About one out of three Muslim applicants is selected, which compares favorably with, in fact is somewhat better, than the success rate of other candidates. Despite a better success rate Muslims constitute only 1.3 % of students studying in all courses in all IIMs in India, and in absolute number they were only 63 from out of 4743.  In the case of the IITs, out of 27,161 students enrolled in the different programmes, there are only 894 Muslims. The break-up of students according to different course levels is available; the share of Muslims in the post-graduate courses is just about 4 % but it is even lower in undergraduate courses at 1.7%. Muslims’ share in Ph.D. courses is some-what better compared with other courses. The representation of Muslims the top Medical colleges is only marginally better. It is about 4% of students enrolled in all courses. Most of them are studying at the UG level namely in MBBS, Dental, Nursing etc. The representation of Muslims in other courses is marginal. Except in PG Diploma courses, the percentage of Muslim girls is lower than Muslim boys in all courses.The enrolment of Muslims in the regular streams of science, arts and commerce courses is presented. Only one out of twenty five students enrolled in Under Graduate (UG) courses and only one out of every fifty students in Post-Graduate (PG) courses is a Muslim. The share of Muslims in all courses is low, particularly at the PG level, and marginal in the science stream.The status of Muslims in PG courses is equally disappointing. Only about one out of twenty students is a Muslim(Sachar Committee,2006: 68-70).

There is also a common belief that Muslim parent’s feel that education is not important for girls and that it may instill a wrong set of values. Even if girls are enrolled, they are withdrawn at an early age to marry them off. This leads to a higher drop-out rate among Muslim girls. Our interactions indicate that the problem may lie in non-availability of schools within easy reach for girls at lower levels of education, absence of girl’s hostels, absence of female teachers and availability of scholarships as they move up the education ladder. It needs to be emphasized that the worth of mere literacy is low. Unlike literacy, education is a broad process that enables a person to adopt a rational and questioning attitude and facilitate the recognition of new opportunities. Education also involves retention and enhancement of these capabilities over a lifetime and the ability to transmit education to the next generation in order to generate the considerable spillover effects documented by social scientists. Therefore, a person must be enrolled into a system of education and remain there for a minimum period in order to derive such benefits.

Economic Condition of Indian Muslims

Economic participation is the key to empowerment. Availability of work provides all community with the opportunities to participate in the exercise of power. Broadly, worker population rates provide an idea of extent of participation in economic activity by a specific population. Worker population ratio for Muslims are especially lower than for all other socio-religious categories in the rural areas but only marginally lower in urban areas. The low aggregate work participation ratio for Muslims are essentially due to much lower participation ratio for Muslims are essentially due to much lower participation in economic activity by women in the community. Unemployment rates reflect person available for and seeking employment as a proportion of the labour force. Unemployment rates are slightly higher for all Muslims than for all Hindus but there are differences within each group. In general, within the Hindus, unemployment rates are lower for high castes Hindus than others especially the SCs and STs population. Unemployment rates among Muslims (male, female, rural, urban) are lower than SCs and STs but higher than Hindu forward castes. They are also higher than Hindu OBCs except in urban areas. The most striking feature is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self–employment activity. This is particularly true in urban areas and for women workers (Sachar Committee, 2006:87-91).

Interestingly, work participation rates for Muslim women is much lower than even that for women belonging to upper-caste Hindu households, where there may be socio-cultural constraints to women’s work. Overall, about 44 per cent of women in the prime age group of 15-64 years in India participate in the workforce while about 85 per cent of men do so. However, on an average the workforce participation rate among Muslim women is only about 25 per cent. In rural areas, while about 70 per cent of the Hindu women participate in the workforce only about 29 per cent of the Muslim women do so. Even the upper caste Hindu women in rural areas have a higher participation rate which stands at43 per cent. The lower participation of women in rural areas is partly explained by the fact that Muslim households (and hence women) are less likely to be engaged in agriculture. The daily status unemployment rates are generally not higher than 11 per cent. Overall, unemployment rates are slightly higher for all Muslims (taken together), than for all Hindus but there are differences within each group. Unemployment rates among Muslims (male, female, rural and urban) are lower than SCs/STs but higher than Hindu-UCs. They are also higher than Hindu-OBCs except in urban areas (Sachar Committee, 2006: 90).

As employees, Muslims generally work as casual laborers. In the case of SCs and STs workers, the participation of Muslim workers in salaried jobs (both in the public and private sectors) is quite low. In the aggregate while 25 percent of Hindus forward castes workers are engaged in regular jobs, only about 13 percent of Muslim workers are engaged in such jobs, the situation of SCs and STs worker is no better. Lack of access to regular jobs, especially in the public sector has been a general concerns among the Muslim population, the condition of the Muslims with respect to regular jobs do not seem very different from those of OBCs, SCs and STs Hindu. However, distribution by activity status of worker in urban areas brings out sharply that participation of Muslims in regular jobs is quite limited as compared to even the traditionally disadvantaged SCs and STs. Only about 27 percent of Muslim workers in urban areas are engaged in regular work while the share of such workers among SCs, STs, OBCs and Hindu forward castes workers is 40 percent, 36 percent and 49 percent respectively. Regular jobs in large enterprises, however, are more stable and lucrative. Less than 24 percent of Muslim regular workers are employed in the public sector or in government jobs. This proportion is much higher for other socio-religious category, while about 39 percent of regular SCs and STs workers are engaged in such jobs. The share for Hindu forward castes and Hindu OBCs workers is 37 percent and 30 percent respectively. The share of regular jobs in the large private enterprises (public and private limited) shows a similar pattern with Muslims having the lowest share, save Hindu SCs/STs Workers. These differentials are sharper in urban areas with a relatively much lower proportion of Muslim workers engaged in such jobs (Sachar Committee, 2006:92-94).

Participation of Muslim workers in agricultural activities is much lower than the workers of all other Socio-Religious Categories. In addition, the participation of Muslim male workers is somewhat higher than others in the manufacture of fabricated metal products (except machinery and equipment). Among non-manufacturing industries, land transports and retail trade (especially for male) are activities where a larger proportion of Muslims workers are located than workers of other socio-religious categories. The shares of Muslims in the total workers engaged in the tobacco and textile garment related industries are quite significant. More than 41 percent of the male workers engaged in the manufacture of tobacco products are Muslims, the share of the Muslim women in this sectors is 35 percent. 30 percent Muslim male workers are engaged in the manufacture of garments, wearing apparel etc. and a Muslim women worker is 17 percent (Sachar Committee, 2006:99). Muslim participation is lower in professional, technical, clerically and managerial work. In proportion to their population, Muslims are relatively much fewer in the formal sector, in both public and private sector employment which provide some measure of social security, status and power (Shah, 2007:838).

One can summaries that in general Muslims men and women are in inferior jobs and they have poor human and economic status, widespread illiteracy, low income and irregular employment are characteristic of Indian Muslims implying by the high incidence of poverty relative to other social group in India (Shariff and Azam, 2004:8-9).

Muslims tend to be relatively more vulnerable in terms of conditions of work as their concentration in informal sector employment is higher and their jobs condition even among regular workers are less for Muslims than those of other socio religious categories (Sachar Committee, 2006:106). Poor socio-economic condition, lower education, lack of access to health care services, low income and so on is major problems amongst Muslims (Shariff & Azam, 2004:16). The Gopal Singh Commission during 1980s found that the economic condition of Muslims was even worse compared with socially deprived SCs (Shariff and Azam, 2004:27). Muslim were deprived of benefit of developmental schemes which government launched for ameliorating conditions of poor and marginalized section of the society and their marginalized status is not merely confirmed by individual researcher and surveys of voluntary organizations but also committees of government. But the government agencies appear to be indifferent and discriminatory towards them (Waheed, 2007:1).

In the light of previous data and information, Beg (1989:124) has given some understanding of the structure of Muslim employment which has the following salient features:

  • Muslim has negligible presence in the public and private corporate sector both as managers and workers and also as capital subscribers.
  • Muslim has nominal presence in the small scale and cottage organized sector, though they have been pioneers in the handicrafts and artisanship such as Tobacco preparers and tobacco product makers (especially women). Spinners, weaver, knitters and dyers.
  • In agriculture, proper and allied activities Muslims have very nominal presence.
  • So far as, the tertiary public sector is concerned, Muslim have nominal presence in government administrative, police and defense services and more or less no share in financial and banking institution. However, in the private services sector, such as transportation, repairing and other community services, Muslims have an unduly high percentage.
  • It is a common observation that the bulk of the Muslim workforce is self-employed in the unorganized sector, constituting a fairly high majority of construction labour, rickshaw pullers, cart pullers, horse cart pullers, coolies, barbers, footpath hawkers, tailors, dress makers, carpenters, mechanics, fitters, electricians, welders and pity shopkeepers, transport equipment operators (especially for males and in urban areas).
  • Machinery fitters, assemblers and precision instrument makers (especially for males and in urban areas).

The most striking feature is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self- employment activity. This is particularly true in urban areas and for women workers. Taken together, the three self-employed categories constituted about 61 per cent of the total Muslim workforce as compared to about 55 per cent of the Hindu workers. In urban areas this share is 57 per cent for Muslims and 43 per cent for Hindus. Among women the share is as high as 73 per cent for Muslims and 60 per cent for Hindus. We shall see later that within self-employment, Muslims are less engaged in agriculture as compared to non-agricultural activity. Within the Muslim community, the reliance on self-employment is higher for OBCs (64 per cent) than for general Muslims (59 per cent). Among the Hindus, while the reliance on self-employment is relatively very low for SCs/STs (43 per cent), it is much higher for OBCs (51 per cent) and Hindu-UCs (55 per cent). Given higher participation in self-employment related activities, availability of credit presumably is more critical for Muslims than for other SRCs (Sachar Committee, 2006: 92).

It was also found that the participation of women workers in women-owned proprietary enterprises is significantly higher for Muslims. This implies that the prevalence of own account enterprises run by women is higher among Muslims than in other SRCs. However, as enterprises of Muslim women are mainly home-based, they are typically engaged in sub contracted work with low levels of earnings. For example, among Muslim male workers, less than 6 per cent are engaged in such work as against more than 10 per cent for all male workers and 13 per cent for all-Hindu male workers. Even the shares of OBCs and SCs/STs workers in such jobs are significantly higher than that for Muslims. Similar situation prevails for women workers and in both urban and rural areas.As compared to other SRCs, the participation of Muslim workers in the informal sector enterprises is much higher. For example, less than 8 per cent of Muslim workers in urban areas are employed in the formal sector as compared to the national average of 21 per cent. The share of Hindu OBCs and SCs/STs workers in such jobs in urban areas is as high as 18 and 22 per cent respectively. The same pattern prevails for both male and female workers and in rural areas (Sachar Committee, 2006: 96).

Political Representation of Indian Muslims

Educational and economic deprivation of the Muslims is mainly due to the fact that Muslims are deprived of benefits of development schemes which government launched for ameliorating the condition of disadvantaged and marginalized section of the society. It has been found that the government agencies appear to be indifferent and discriminatory towards them (Waheed, 2007:1). Any development or welfare programme to reach out a deprived and backward community demands due representation in decision making bodies such as Parliament, State Legislature and PRIs (Shariff and Azam, 2004:77). Representation in decision making bodies is an indicator of a community’s empowerment. In a democracy, the legislature and other decision making bodies are key to power. The fact is that the Muslims community is inadequately or simply not represented in several Legislatures and even in the Lok Sabha since 1952 till date 2014. Its representation is less than 50 percent of what it should be, assessed as per the share in the population. Absence of legislators from any social group in a plural and segmental society puts groups at a clear disadvantaged in development (Ansari, 2006:65)

Table 5.1 shows the under representation of Muslims in Parliament from 1952 to 2014 so that the average Muslims populationin India is 14.81 percent. Total seats in the LokSabha from 1952 to 2014 was 8449 expected Muslim members were 968,Muslims elected from 1952 to 2014 was 493, so the deprivation rate is 49.07 percent, and so the representation is less than half of their proportion in the population.

Table 5.1
Muslim Representation in the Lok Sabha



Total elected member

Muslims elected

Expected Muslims on the basis of their population


































































































Total  8449




*Deprivation rate  =Expected Muslims – Total Elected Muslim  ×100
                                       Expected Elected Muslim

Indian Muslims in Government Services

The representation of the Muslims in all government sectors and services are negligible and they are underrepresented on the basis of their population. The committee found that the 88 lakhs employees from different government departments, agencies and institutions; of which only 4.4 lakhs or 5% are reported to be Muslims. Information on 1.4 million Public Sectors Undertakings (PSU) workers shows that Muslims constituted only 3.3% of Central PSUs and 10.8% of the State level PSUs from which data was received. The presence of Muslims was found to be only 3% in the IAS, 1.8% in the IFS and 4% in the IPS. Moreover, Muslims who have secured high level appointments could do it mostly as ‘promoted candidates’; their share as direct recruits through competitive examinations is low at 2.4%, 1.9% and 2.3% respectively. Overall, Muslim’s representation in the Judiciary is about 7.8 %.Indian Railways employs about 14 lakh people. Of these only 64 thousand employees belong to the Muslim community, a representation of only 4.5%. Besides, almost all (98.7%) Muslim railway employees are positioned at lower levels; with only 1.3% employed as Group ‘A’ or Group ‘B’ officers. In the Group A category, ‘Other Hindu’ (includes H-General and H-OBCs) group holds 72% positions followed by SCs/STs at 18%. Muslims have a meagre 3% share at this level. In lower level positions the share of Muslims is somewhat higher at 5% (Sachar Committee, 2006: 165).

India has about 19 lakh employees in various security agencies including the three wings of the defenseforces. However, details of the levels of positions of SRCs are available only for 5.2 lakh employees belonging to the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force and Sashastra Seema Bal. The share of Muslims even in these security agencies is as low as 3.6% at the higher and 4.6% at the lower levels/categories of employment. Taking all agencies together, practically all Muslim (96%) employees are positioned at the lower levels, especially in Group C, with only about 2% asGroup ‘A’ or Group ‘B’ officers. Excepting Group D, which has only 4% of all jobs in security agencies, in which SCs/STs have a 37% presence, all other positions are dominated by the Other Hindu (includes H-General and H-OBCs) category. One also finds that about 11% of Group A jobs are held by those belonging to minorities other than the Muslims (Sachar Committee, 2006: 167-168).

The Postal Department has about 2.75 lakh employees amongst whom the share of the Muslim community is only 5%. The Indian Postal Department has a good representation of Hindu-UC workers followed by SCs/STs. The shares of Muslims and OBCs in this department are far below their population shares. Like other departments, the Postal Department, too, shows that Muslims are represented more in lower level positions than higher level positions. It was also found that the maximum share of Muslims is in Group-D whereas their share in Group-A is just 3.8% (Sachar Committee, 2006: 168).

According to the data received by the Committee from 129 Universities and 84Colleges there are 1.37 lakh employees of which about 42 % are in the teaching segment and the remaining 58 % constitute non-teaching staff. It is evident from Fig. 9.2 that both the segments are dominated by H-Gen employees with a share nearly twice their population share. All other minorities which constitute about 6% of the population also showed good representation in university employment. Among the teaching faculty, OBCs have a good representation, more than their population share. Only Muslims and SCs/STs are under-represented in university employment. Muslims are just 3.7% in the teaching faculty and 5.4% in non-teaching staff and SCs/STs are 7.4% in teaching and 16.9% in non-teaching staff; the population shares of the two SRC’s are 13.4 and 25.2 per cent respectively.The data received by the Committee from the RBI, Scheduled CommercialBanks, NABARD and SIDBI shows thatthere are 6.8 lakh employees, about 32%at higher-level positions and 68% atlower-level positions. Therepresentation of Muslims is very low at2.2% in bank employment overall, just1.7% at higher levels and 2.5% at lower level positions (Sachar Committee, 2006: 168-169).


It is evident from the above discussion that Indian Muslims are economically poor, educationally backward, politically marginalized and their negligible presence in the government services. But we can say that the socio-economic condition of Muslims in India is somewhat better than that of SCs and STs but worse than of Hindu general, Hindu OBCs and other minorities communities in all most all indicator of development. It is also found that the most of the SRCs- Hindus and minorities have received some benefits of overall development including social, economic and political, the position of the Muslims has been somewhat reversed in the past 60 years. Economic opportunities particularly for the educated and entrepreneur class of the community have shrunk. In several parts of the country, Muslims constantly face insecurity of life. A series of planned events of communal violence, an ineffective and partisan system that has failed to deliver justice to the victims and an unchecked “hate Muslim” campaign alienate them from the mainstream. Such fear insecurity breeds fear and forces them to ghettoise. It was also found that the representations of Muslims women in sphere of life are negligible. They worst sufferers are women.

Muslims carry a double burden of being labeled as “anti-national” (Pro-Pakistan) and as being “appeased” at the same time. While Muslims need to prove on a daily basis that they are not “anti-national” and “terrorists”, it is not recognized that the alleged “appeasement” has not resulted in the desired level of socio-economic development of the Community. The political system, irrespective of the parties in power, has so far failed to take up the issue squarely. Several administrative measures recommended by the committee to correct the situation have to be looked at in this political context. It was the Sachar Committee who could have critically examined why some of the well-meaning administrative measures like the formation of NMDFC, NBCFDC, Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme, JNVs, MNF, many central scholarship for Muslims  etc – in the past 15 years have not helped Muslims. In this context the measures suggested like (a) constant monitoring and evaluation system of programmes, (b) building of a data bank are useful and (3) there shall be draconian law against those who appease the minority especially Muslims and blame to Muslims as a anti –nation. The committee has dealt with the issue of reservation at length, it has refrained from making a recommendation for reservation for the Muslim community as a whole. This is perhaps because it is a contentious issue on the one hand, and a large number of Muslims communities are already covered as part of the OBCs on the other and these OBCs Muslims are availing the facility of reservation in Centre and the states so that there is big controversy over those issues. There is always public discourse either by the politicians, academicians or social scientists on reservation that either whole Muslims are backward or some Ajlafs are backward. In my view, these three recommendations are very important and may evoke a consensus across the political spectrum. One of the important measures is to form an Equal Opportunity Commission to look into the grievances of the deprived groups especially Muslims. Besides providing a remedial mechanism for different types of discrimination, it is hoped that this would reassure Muslims that any unfair action against them would “invite the vigilance of the law”. The second recommendations to provide incentives to colleges and universities- private and public – that have a “higher diversity and able to sustain it”. Similarly, the government should find ways and means to provide incentives to builders of housing complexes to have a more diverse population among its occupants.


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Sohail Akhtar, is Research Scholar in the Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (India). Email: