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Economic handicaps of Indian Muslims
By Saeed Suhrawardy
|What are the specific features of the
post-independence economic situation of Indian Muslims? Can we identify
factors, which do not apply to other communities? Statistical approach
shall lead us nowhere. But it is easy to identify political factors, which
have affected their economic situation.
After achievement of independence, there came an important change in the
economic situation of Indian Muslims.
Firstly, there was a big "brain drain" following the partition
of the country, denuding to a large extent the talent, which had come up
through the system of education, prevalent under British rule. Loss of
talent due to partition of the country is an exclusive feature of the
situation of Indian Muslims. It does not apply to any other community to
Secondly the leadership of Indian Muslims, in several regions,
particularly in Hindi belt, had come mostly from feudal sections. That
class was adversely affected by land reforms under pressure of democratic
aspirations of large sections. That class, at least the majority among
them could not adjust with the change, suffered fast economic
degeneration. They could not lift themselves above despair and pessimism
and aggravated the gloom around them. The absence of a dynamic and
far-sighted leadership has been another important factor inhibiting their
The transfer of population in the wake of the partition of the country
also hit them hard. The division of families, due to creation of Pakistan
had a severe unsettling effect on them.
The enforcement of evacuee property laws also acted as a great
disincentive for growth of savings and capital formation in the community.
Partition had a depreciating effect on the assets they had retained. In
several cases the assets of Muslims were assessed at a great discount as
compared with prevailing market conditions. In certain areas, Muslims were
required to obtain prior permission for disposing of their properties.
There will be no dearth of cases, if compiled, when transferable and
nontransferable assets of Muslims were sold at distress rates for
daughter’s marriage, litigation or education of children. Certainly no
other community in India had to suffer from such handicaps.
The exclusion of Urdu from the educational and administrative spheres in
Hindi hinterland threw several categories of workers out of jobs, reduced
employment opportunities for skills developed in the course of
generations. It destroyed the natural link between elder and younger
generations. In the case of the former it caused frustration. For the
youth, there was a mental vacuum. They grew up without effective parental
guidance. The difference between the language used in the school and the
language spoken at home has affected the progress of many a Muslim child.
For more than a decade after independence, priority was given to the
rehabilitation of millions of displaced persons from West Pakistan. That
naturally led to the exclusion of Indian Muslims from the available
avenues of employment.
A sense of insecurity and inferiority also, has been a liability for them.
It is difficult to state precisely to what extent there has been
discrimination against them in economic sphere. It is not possible to
state that in exact statistical terms. But allegations about that should
not be a substitute for purposeful and constructive thinking on the
Communal disturbances too have heightened the feeling of insecurity and
economic deprivation among them. Communal disturbances may be isolated and
scattered occurrences but they have a negative impact on the places where
they do not occur.
All the factors mentioned above, taken singly or taken together have been
a great drawback for growth of enterprise among them. A sense of security
and stability is the first and foremost condition for growth of
It should be noted that even the pre-independence generation of Muslims
had a stunted growth for various reasons, not mentioned here, it has been
difficult for them to retain that position in the post-independence
period. The post-independence generation has come up in an atmosphere of
gloom and despair.
The remarkable growth of a few Muslim industrial houses after
independence-although a bright patch- is exceptional. It has not made an
impact on the total economic situation of Indian Muslims.
It is difficult to establish these impressions with support of statistical
material. But no statistical tool can match common sense in realistic
appraisal of economic status of a particular community. q