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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indian Shias: Poor political representation despite substantial population

The recent conclave of the All India Shia Personal Law Board [AISPLB] has brought to fore several issues, which are often overlooked.

The fact that Shias comprise anything between 10-17% of Indian Muslim population, which is around 2-3 crore [20-30 million] and are numerically equal to the size of Sikh and Christian minority, can't be ignored.

However, they don't have any political representation and there is probably no Shia Member of Parliament (MP).

This was the main issue, which came up for discussion. The participants said that while the voice of mainstream Sunni Muslim is heard in the echelons of power, the problems pertaining to the Shia sect aren't discussed or redressed. Just a couple of states have separate Shia Waqf Boards.

The education backwardness of Shias was another major issue. Interestingly, while there is no dearth of prominent Shia public intellectuals, authors, journalists and activists--from Raja Mahmoodabad to Rahi Masoom Raza, who dominated public space, the fact remains that generally the condition of Shias is worse than the Sunnis.

Historically, the towns where there was a substantial Shia families, the prominent leaders came from the few elite families but rest of the Shia populace remained trapped in poverty and educational backwardness, especially in semi-urban and rural areas.

Though there is no clear breakup of Shia populace available, the distribution of population of Indian Shias is another unique demographic phenomenon. There are concentration areas in UP and Karnataka apart from Bihar and parts of Jammu & Kashmir.

In UP, the population of Shias is higher in and around Allahabad region [contrary to general belief about Lucknow, which too has a sizable Shia concentration]. However, it is in middle-level cities and towns across UP--from Amroha to Nauganvaan Sadat where the Shia culture exists as a minority within a minority.

Besides, some other sects including the Ismailis and the comparatively much more progressive, prosperous and educated Dawoodi Bohras are also part of the Twelver Shiites [Asna Ashri Jamaat]. The Bohras who are mostly concentrated in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Western Madhya Pradesh [Malwa region] number well over 1 million. 

Though there has been Shia-Sunni schism elsewhere, India has never had such a conflict except for a period in Lucknow where certain old rivalries caused hostility among the two groups of Muslims.

Perhaps, there is a bit of justification in the grievance among Shias that the mainstream Sunni leadership and MPs-MLAs aren't concerned about them much. The Shia personal law board, which was not taken seriously earlier, has now delivered a message at the convention in New Delhi.

Mirza Athar's statements regarding the lack of representation of Shias in political parties and the government was viewed by some sections as an attempt to carve a separate identity for the Shia Board as also enhance the clout of the Shias. 

He said that the Shias are spread across India unevenly and are not concentrated in any particular region. Thus they are not treated seriously [read vote banks] and the parties ignore them. Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that he was not aware about the problems of the Shia sect and assured that the demands would reach the leadership.

12 comments:

Amit J said...

Well,although you discussed the Shia community in particular,the problems faced by them is the same as those shared by the Sunnis.And to the eyes of most Non-Muslims,there is no difference between the two.So really,do we already need more fragmentation?By the way,nice article.In the whole Muslim issues,normally people neglect the whole Shia issue altogether....

indscribe said...

Ya Amit bhai

...they have grievances and some of them seem quite justified. On the other hand, it's also true that there is no group or no individual that doesn't have complaints.

Anyway. Nice to know about your visit to the regions in Tamil Nadu where Urdu is widely used. In magazines, we see lot of letters and articles from Vaniyambardi and Ambur.

Incidentally, Vellore, as you must be knowing is the birth place of one of the most prominent Urdu poets--Vali Vellori ( of course not the Vali Deccani alias Gujarati). Wish I could go!

Anser Azim said...

PL let them be under the Islamic umbrella and consider it as an indian muslim issue. the more you fragment the more complicated it becomes.

Amit J said...

oh...so you did read my comments on your other website...I am flattered...By the way,would you know where could I find Ghalib's Dastambo,his commentary on the mutiny...I tried to search in Delhi's Urdu Bazaar but I couldn't find it

marryasunni said...

India gives minority rights for every musilm irrespective of divisions.Problems faced by every musilm is same irrespective of division.

urdudaaN said...

Adnan Sahab,

Sorry to write off-topic and commenting on your comment.
But, why are we spelling the name "Vali Dakni" as Vali Deccani. As you have such an active and wide readership, if you write it the way you have, it will make it more common. While, I'm not expecting you to go and change/correct Deccan to Dakan, I think we should not impose Deccan on the name.
I have to say the same thing of Lakhnawi (why lucknowi?).
I have the same reaction when people reply to my KHuda Haafiz by Allah Haafiz. I don't want KHuda to be replaced by Allah in this particularly popular phrase either.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned that there is no Shia MP in India's parliament. I believe Shahnawaz Hussain , BJP MP from Bhagalpur, is a Shia.

Muslim Marriage said...

Well maybe if the Muslims get together and act as one, they can demand better and more rights.

Anonymous said...

Sallamun Allaykum, I appreciate your concern about Islam and Shia Muslims in a world that every one is just busy doing his/her own life. i'll be happy to have your comments on my blog.
http://holy-tears.blogspot.com

lucknow said...

Sir very poor research you have done before writing such a preposterous article... I would humbly request to delete the same as I could smell biasness in it...

There were number of points including MPs MLAs etc.

indscribe said...

Mr 'Lucknow': Its not a research article and kindly stop feeling that everybody has a BIAS. This a simple blog post that raises the issue of lack of Shia representation. If you have figures, you can share here, or start your own blog, may be on Shias of India, and put it there. It would be a bigger service for your community than sensing 'bias'.

Anyway, thanks for visiting and commenting.

mohd said...

The round up no given of 10-17% is just a rough figure and i seriously doubt if shias are any more than 7-8% based on my experience in UP. we all have a fancy of exaggerating numbers. Before saying we dont have reprsentation may be we should have a real census from the community internally. I think the point mentioned that Shias are backward to sunnis in terms of education is clearly wrong. It has been reported many times in major newspapers that Shias are better educated and are better in HDI indicators. Also the fact that Shias are more in Allahabad region than in lko can also be contested. It would have been better had the writer provided any reference behind these comments.Also we have political presence in local administration in Kargil. but Yes, more political representation could have helped but there is very little chance that we will have any MLA or MP. But i think it doesent matter so much. Bigger worry is there is no mujtahids/alims left in India than in previous centuries. No good authors or books coming. condition of madarsas is despicable.