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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Your Honour, I am not a minority?

In a strange judgment the Allahabad High Court has said that Muslims who constitute 18% of the population of Uttar Pradesh are not a religious minority in the state.

I have tremendous respect for the judiciary in this country and I am not dying to keep this tag of minority on myself but I am not at all amazed when it comes from the Allahabad High Court. There is a history. From verdicts on AMU's status and the 1-day imprisonment given to Kalyan Singh under whose rule the Babri Masjid was pulled down with state complicity by vandals in disregard to constitution and in full public view, Muslims have seen many very unfavourable judgements. Read an earlier post on this issue here. And there is another story here.

There is criticism of judgment. I rather like Jamiat's statement that has welcomed it and also the tag of majority for Muslims. Of course, political parties and religious outfits have their agenda. This verdict doesn't 'hurt' me but it has surely surprised me because the observation comes from a single judge bench and it hardly has any chance to stand in the Apex court. It has no sound basis at all.

Of course, I don't mind being called a member of majority community. Students in madarsa may get affected though. But I wonder what prompted the judge to make this comment as it would not do any harm to Muslims or Hindus but it is impractical, incorrect in its essence and has no factual basis. Say, just because you are seeing more Muslims around and you may not like the sight, it can't be a reason.

I wonder what His Majesty thinks about the status of Muslims in West Bengal, Kerala and Assam that have 25%, 24% and 31% population respectively. I didn't know what was the threshold for coversion from minority to the next nameless stage, which is surely not a majority either.

In Sri Lanka, Hindu Tamils number around 18% and are surely a minority. There may be confusion about status of Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the multi-ethnic Bosnia. But, in a state in Indian Union where Hindus constitute 80% of the population, Muslims are surely a minority unless the definition of minority as per constitution and spelt by Supreme Court is changed.

If minority will be defined on the basis of a certain threshold about which no one seems to have an idea and it will vary from states to states then what about districts within UP. In a district like Jalaun that barely has 5% Muslims or Lalitpur that has 2% Muslims, the judgement should have clarified their position compared to Rampur and Moradabad that have 49% and 45% Muslims.

Further, we can go down to towns and then villages as there is diverse population composition in each unit. The observation that Muslims are not a minority doesn't astonish me. In UP, systematically Muslims were kept out of education and jobs after partition (unlike other states where there was not such level of bias).


Rick T Hunter said...


A request here. Though there might be bias (due to propoganda? insecurity?) in the minds of people, can you point out sources that have officially denied Muslims entry into educational and civil institutions?

I have seen this allegation in print numerous times, however, I have yet to see this fleshed out to determine its veracity.

Much appreciated.

indscribe said...

Dear Mr Rick, this post deals with the judge's decision only. As far as bias is concerned, the problem is chiefly that of North India ie UP, home to largest Muslim population where a law still stops establishment of an Urdu medium school. States like Maharashtra have over 2500 Urdu schools. It may sound unbelievable but this is just an example of how soon after partition immediately Urdu schools were closed down in UP. This violation of the most basic human right. Then if the Muslim parents send their children to madarsa so that he can learn his mother tongue there, he is branded a fundamenstalist. UP and Lucknow region is homeland of Urdu where it was ruthlessly removed from schools and colleges. In jobs and educational institutes, UP had the worst record. From 1947 to 1967 under Congress rule not a single Muslim was appointed in UP Police. It was not until SVD government toppled Congress that a few Muslims were given government jobs. Zamindari abolition and denial of jobs hit the community badly. Getting in higher education institutes is tough because of economic backwardness and inability to afford fee. Muslims rarely get bank loans, it is a well known fact. There are lot of things typical of UP where section of Upper castes' bias against Muslims has been institutionalised and unprecedented, compared to other states. It was this situation that forced Muslims to move out to places like Maharashtra where townships like Bhiwandi and Malegaon sprang up....etc etc...

Diganta said...

All the writings are in religious divisions of Hindus and Muslims. But, there are many other kinds of minorities identified in India - like linguistic minority and community-minority. If you consider all kinds of minorities, I find it reaaly difficult to identify who really are the minorities.

One of the major point to identify majority-minority division is the point of interraction between them. If the marriage between the two communities are supposed to be rare, then they can be identified as two distinguished communities.

Coming to UP, I feel the state is divided among caste-line. So, Yadavs are different community than Dalits, Brahmins(and other higher castes) and Muslims. In the pattern of votes also depends on the community the voter belongs to. Now, if the population of UP is split among these four sects - how can Muslims be deemed as Minoroties?

indscribe said...

I too feel that as far as politics is concerned, one can see Muslims as just another caste group. But when it is a question of religion, they surely are a different religion and qualify as a religious minority.

Rick T Hunter said...


1. What law is this that stops the establishment of Urdu language schools?
2. I am sorry, I do not buy Urdu==Muslim at all. A language does not have a religion, and vice versa.
3."mother tongue"? I was under the impression that madarsas taught in Arabic. Certainly no mother tongue of any Indian.(IMO)
4.I agree the stats (including Sachar reports) say there is underrepresentation of Muslims in the government wrt the national population, but it is unfair to pin that on an official govt. bias and smacks of a victim complex. I can go ahead and say "Why is the % of Sikhs in the Army more than5 times than what should be due to thier national population". Systemic bias is a convinent strawman in this case.
5. I guess it is not Urdu schools, but schooling in English that is needed. What do you think?
6. Once basic education is taken care of (and this I believe is the crux of the matter), govt. subsidised higher education can be obtained on the basis of academic merit.
7. I again admit that there is truth to the assertion that there is a bias against muslims (i.e. Unable to get a house on rent in many places in Mumbai, based on religion alone!), but saying that this is institutionalised is both untrue and deflecting from the real issue at hand. Can you address a future post to quantifing this bias? I'd appreciate that.
8. It is interesting that you say that there has been migration of UP muslims to Malegaon etc due to this bias. I did not know that. Thank you for pointing this out.


indscribe said...

See, of course, schooling in English is needed. But the problems began way back in 1950s. Overnight Urdu schools were converted to Hindi medium. Why, when Urdu was not a Muslim language.

Such was the biased nature of bureaucracy that all doors were shut for Muslims.
Muslims were forced to go into their shell. So when two three generations after independence continued to go down on social, economic and other parameters, it is not going to change overnight. The law against Urdu is old one. In those days (1949) when Justice Anand Narain Mulla, a Kashmiri Brahmin poet, whose statement 'police is the most organised group of criminals in uniform' is oft-quoted, had written the landmark 'yeh haadsaa saal-e-chahal-e-nau hua....hindi kii chhuri thi aur urdu ka galaa....'
Even in late 90s Alam Badee Azmi who won from Azamgarh seat, and was insistent to take his oath in Urdu (which constitution allowed him), was not allowed to do so by speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi, and Azmi's membership expired. In comparison Madhya Pradesh, a state in the heartland and in UP's neighbourhood, didn't have any such bias against Muslims even in the decade after partition till late 80s. I don't want to sound casteist or generalising but the fact is that role of upper castes in UP has been extremely intolerant and communal compared to any other state. The early Congress leaders like Sampoornanand, Purushottam Das Tandon etc were responsible for this situation. Kindly read Charu Gupta's scholarly book 'Sexuality, obscenity and community: Women, Muslims and Hindu public in Colonial India' to get a grasp of how this intense communalism was built up steadily in the decades just before partition and how it manifested in this systematic and organised bias against Muslims.

Rick T Hunter said...


Thanks, will reply in detail later.


ps: Are you aware of group "Muslims for Secular Democracy"?

indscribe said...

I have heard about it...but nothing more

Anonymous said...

The fact that there is such an outcry over who can be legally defined as a "minority" really says it all about Indian secularism's nature. It is beyond imagination for a group to become angry in most countries because someone questions their "right" to be defined as a minority, but in India it is par for the course. What a sad legacy, I doubt there is a way out of it at this point.