Jobs @ MG
Economic realism for Indian Muslims
By Saeed Suhrawardy
|Depending on circumstances, economic
decisions of Indian Muslims have been subject to compulsions. After
independence of the country, their options were limited. Among the
circumstances influencing their decisions, pride of place goes to
partition and subsequently to Indo-Pak relations. They have never been in
a position to influence Indo-Pak relations but Indo-Pak relations have
influenced them quite often adversely.
Immediately after partition the only choice was to stay in India or to
migrate to Pakistan. Officially the option was available to government
servants working in India. Majority among them opted for Pakistan. They
were the lucky ones. They got a fair share of opportunities created by
migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan to India. In Punjab there was
exchange of population. So bulk of Muslim population with exception of
certain pockets had to migrate to Pakistan, irrespective of their trade,
craft or profession.
From the viewpoint of Indian Muslims the post-independence era may be
divided in three distinct phases:-- The initial period (1947-65) 2; second
phase 1965-1971; and the current one,- post-1971 period. The initial
period after independence was characterized by unsettled conditions,
turmoil and political uncertainty. The period follows partition and ends
with Indo-Pak conflict followed by Tashkent Agreement. During that period,
divided Muslim families were the worst to suffer. Initially there was
complete black out for them. Those living in India were worried for the
safety of their kith and kin across the border. Similar was the case of
those who had migrated to Pakistan. There was no direct link between them
for a long time.
After Tashkent Agreement communication lines were resumed via London,
Dubai or even Toronto, depending on availability of common contacts. In
that period also the feeling of uncertainty about future persisted.
Gradually the realization dawned upon Muslims that for all practical
purposes Pakistan was a foreign country. It would be futile to expect
relief and redress from there. The main feature of the1947-65 phase was
large-scale disinvestment by Muslims voluntarily and compulsorily. It was
voluntary when Muslims disposed of their property for migration or
daughter’s marriage or any other purpose. They were dispossessed of
their assets after enforcement of evacuee property laws due to migration
of their relatives to Pakistan. The disinvestment in 1947-65 was not
balanced by acquisition of property or assets except by gift to avoid
acquisition by government as evacuee property. Muslim land-owners were
adversely affected by land reforms, wherever undertaken.
In the second phase, 1965-71 things got settled but there was still
confusion about their future. The process of disinvestment by Muslims
ceased in that period. However enthusiasm for investment or enterprise is
not noticed in that period.
Economic generalization about Indian Muslims cannot be established by
statistics. As one who has been persistently engaged in formulating a
thesis about the economic situation of Indian Muslims, I have observed
three important indicators of economic decision-making by Muslims. (a)
Their attitude to building houses or acquiring property (b) their interest
in starting and running enterprises (c) the keenness of Muslim youth in
appearing for competitive examinations.
Between 1947 and 1965 the attitude of Muslims in all three categories has
been negative. The three categories indicate the long period vision of an
individual. An individual builds a house or starts a business or prepares
for competition, when he has a long-term vision of a secure future. That
motivation was absent between 1947 and 1965. It was weak between 1965 and
1971. The Indo-Pak conflict of 1971, the defeat of Pakistan and the
emergence of Bangladesh were a watershed in shaping the economic attitude
of Indian Muslims. Pakistan’s defeat came as a severe jolt to them. The
fate of Muhajirs in Pakistan and Biharis in Bangladesh added to their
In post 1971 period there has been a spurt in their interest in building
houses, colonies and cooperative house-building societies. There is a
sudden growth of awareness of their educational backwardness. They have
engaged themselves in trade and commerce and manufacturing, whatever
opportunities available. The efforts of individuals have borne fruits.
However there has been no serious collective effort to accelerate their
economic revival. That requires a well-organized centre with complete
information about risks and opportunities. The centre should serve them by
guiding them towards progress by identifying areas of growth and
opportunities. It should be in a position to send alarm signals about
impending recession in a particular area. The era of voluntary, honorary
public servce is over. We need a cadre of well-paid committed community
Indian Muslims have missed the bus during four decades of planned economy.
They should avail of opportunities presented by the era of liberalization
and globalization. For that a sense of economic realism is urgent.