Zafar Sareshwala

Biggest push for Muslims in independent India: Pay attention

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “sabka vishwas(everyone’s trust)”in his oath ceremony. Within a fortnight his government has announced 5-crore scholarships—50% reserved for girl students—over the next five years. There are “bridge courses” for drop-outs. Madarsa teachers are to be imparted modern, scientific training.

It’s the most significant decision taken in favour of Muslims—who are main minority–in independent India.  Yet Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Asaduddin Owaisi, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti—whose lifeline is Muslim votes—aren’t taking note. Our English mainstream media only took perfunctory note. The Hindu ignored the news completely.

The basic primary education of Muslims in India is distributed between madarsas, maktabs (religious schools of mosques) and Urdu-medium schools, the last one accounting for a whopping 50% of Muslim students. The drop-outs are alarming in higher education:  It’s ratio was only 4-5 per cent in 2017-2018, that too largely due to Muslim-dominated institutions such as Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).  There are only 4.9% teachers from the community in higher education.

When education doesn’t enter from the front door, jobs fly out of windows. Government jobs, public sector banks, public sector undertakings, corporate India all become out of bounds. Without jobs, living standards, health, control-on-population suffer. The downward spiral continues generation after generation.

What have the governments done to alleviate the educational malaise of Muslims in India? Under the Congress regime various exercises were taken:  Gopal Singh Minority Panel Report  (1983), National Sample Survey report, Programme of Action under the New Education Policy (1986), revised NEP (1992), Sachar Committee Report (2006) etc. But all these remained on files only: Nothing happened; the stock of Muslims remained in a free fall.

Congress isn’t alone. Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is no better. In his nearly five-years of term in Delhi, nothing has materially changed for Muslims. No growth in jobs in Delhi Metro, Delhi Police, fire department etc. All these parties do is to sell hope and fear to Muslims: a bait which nearly always worked.

Let’s look at Sachar Committee Report. In 2004 General Polls, Congress had 141 seats to BJP’s 138—an advantage of a mere three seats. The coalition politics seated Congress in the Centre.  An important input wasn’t lost on Congress:  Muslim voters had played a major role in its victory.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn’t mind making a shocking communal statement: Muslims have the first right on India’s resources. Sachar Committee was formed within months to pin down the reasons and draw a roadmap for socio-economic growth of Muslims. Again, all on paper with little intent.

These are the same forces who stoked Muslims’ fears on Modi’s arrival at the helm. Can’t you see there is no Muslim candidates in polls? Don’t you remember Gujarat riots? What about Babri Masjid? Why there are no Iftar parties thrown by BJP? Every stray lynching, every stray remark was woven into the narrative.

Against this optics, the substantive proof of work on the ground was ignored. One isn’t even talking the obvious of  gas, toilets, houses, health, loan benefits etc. Or the raised Haj subsidy. That hike in aids to educational institutions is meaty. Former Chancellor Zafar Sareshwala of Maulana Azad Urdu National University says that Modi government even released the withheld aid of UPA government with a substantial hike of its own. The ramped up budget of Minority Affairs ministry is eye-popping. That jobs for Muslims in Central government have doubled in last five years. No Hindu-Muslim riot has happened in Modi era. Why, even RSS is hosting Eid-Milan parties.

Triple Talaq Bill is a symbolic, if not a seminal measure in freeing one half of Muslims into shaping the growth of their family, society and nation. The corollary of lower population is an obvious benefit of an educated, empowered women force.  Modi government is seeking the three Es (Education, Employment, Empowerment) for millions of Muslims in India.

This is a good moment for Muslims in India to take stock of reality on ground: (a) There is no protest from so-called Hindutva hardliners on Modi government’s latest measure in favour of Muslims; (b) On the other hand, none of their so-called “saviours” have applauded this boon to their community.  A hard-look would show them who stand for Progress and who for Propaganda.