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‘Indian Muslims Today’ – Report on the lecture by Prof. Christophe Jeffrelot with Bengal Academia for Social Empowerment

On 8th August, Bengal Academia for Social Empowerment (BASE) organized 27th episode of their online lecture series. For this episode, they had invited Prof. Christophe Jaffrelot for the lecture on ‘Indian Muslims today’. Prof. Jaffrelot, who is a noted political scientist, certainly didn’t need any introduction. His research work in the south Asian politics has been remarkable.

Starting with the lecture, he said that Muslims were never a homogenous group. But since August of 2019, they have indeed become homogenous, with all of them facing same issues and fighting for the same cause. The lecture was based on the data that he had gathered during his research. He focused on the data that were socio-economic and political. Through this lecture, he would answer 2 research questions-

  • Were Muslims pampered under the Congress Rule?
  • What has the rise of BJP meant for Muslims?

Starting with the first question, he began with the linguistic policies. Urdu is recognized as one of the official languages of the country. But with every year, the percentage of Urdu speakers in the country declines. The reasons being the lack of teaching and lack of budget. In many north Indian states like UP and Bihar, the difference between the percentage of Muslim population and the percentage of Urdu speakers is very large. So, over time, Urdu has become the language of south India, with state like  Andhra Pradesh having the smallest difference between the two. This fact shows that the language of Muslims was not defended in the states that were ruled by congress for decades.

Talking about the percentage of Muslims among the IPS officers from 1951 to 2016, he highlighted that never were the Muslims represented more than 4% of the IPS officers. The under-representation of Muslims among this elite group has been constant with ups and downs.

While stating the important contribution of the Sachar Committee Report, he said that it was the first document that paid a lot of attention to the kind of jobs Muslims had been doing. This report showed that only 8% of urban Muslims belonged to the salaried group against the national average of 21%. 61% of Muslims were self-employed. It’s not only that they are not very well represented among the salaried people but they are particularly excluded from the public sector as well. This is in contrast to the private sector where their number is similar to that of Hindus. The fact that public sector discriminates more than the private sector, is another indication that government has not pampered the Muslims.

Another data in the Sachar committee report, that came from the National Sample Survey (NSS), shows that in terms of wages for the same kind of work, Muslim OBCs are less paid than Hindu OBCs (Dalits), keeping in mind that the latter also gets reservation.

Moving on to the key aspect i.e. education, data shows that Muslims lack behind all the other religions. He also emphasized that this low rate is not because of the Muslim women. The Muslim women’s literacy rate is quite similar to the Hindu women’s literacy rate. Its more because of the gap at the male side. The report also shows that, up to the primary level, Muslims send their kids to school more than any other community at 65.31% but moving up to the middle and secondary level, the huge dropout rate gradually makes the Muslims last, with only 3.6% completing their graduation. This indicates that Muslims in no way were pampered under the Congress government, be it any sector.

Having answered the first research question, Prof. Jeffrelot then moved on to answering the second question. Among many other dimensions, he focused only on two-

  • Muslims have been marginalized in the Lok Sabha and in many state assemblies.
  • Muslims feel discriminated against by the police.

There were 49 Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha in 1980, therefore they represented 9% of the seats, at that time Muslims represented 11% of the Indian population. With 9% in Lok Sabha and 11 % in society, the gap was only of 2%. In 2014, when BJP won with majority, for the first time, Muslims in Lok Sabha were below 4%. The reason being that BJP had no Muslim MP from their side in the parliament. The situation at the state assembly level was similar to the Lok Sabha level, with the exception of west Bengal.

Moving forward to the second dimension, he shared that in a survey, when asked if they are fearful of the police, 50% Muslims said yes. When asked for the reason, they said that police often implicate Muslims under false terrorism charges. That is also the reason why the number of Muslims in jails is high. He pointed out that this over representation of Muslims in Indian jails is somewhat proportionate to the over representation of blacks in American jails.

Concluding both his questions he said-

  • “Statistical information regarding the education and the socio-economic status of the Muslims show that they have not been pampered by the congress system after 1947.”
  • “Other data, including those pertaining to the growing under-representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies, show that their situation has deteriorated since 1990s-2000s.”

Wrapping up the lecture, the host thanked Prof. Christophe for a very absorbing lecture and making the time from his busy schedule.

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