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Published in the 16-30 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Awakening among Muslim masses 

By N. Jamal Ansari

Muslims at present are passing through a crisis. Their unity is at stake. The controversy over so-called Ashraf and Ajlaf has deepened the crisis and some people are trying to exploit the situation for political gains. The community is going backwards day by day, Muslim ghettos have emerged in major cities while their representation in politics and other fields is decreasing. The cause of Muslim backwardness is Muslim leadership itself which failed to unite and awaken common Muslims.

Muslims lagged behind because instead of working for social upliftment, some of them worked hard to destroy whatever unity they had while other communities progressed. 

The census records of 1961,1971,1981 and 1991 do not give any religion based data. However, the National Sample Surveys (NSS), the reports of the Gopal Singh Committee (1983) and the Minority Commission, Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bangalore and the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad show that Muslims are badly under-represented in education, government jobs and even in private entrepreneurship. Muslims constitute about 13 per cent of the total population of the country. According to the National Sample Survey 1988, 52.3 per cent Muslims were below the poverty line and their average monthly income was only Rs150, that 50.5 per cent Muslims were illiterate, and in government jobs their share was a mere 4.4 per cent. Only 3.7 per cent Muslims got any financial help, five percent received bank loans and only two per cent got industrial loans. The NSSO report of 1990 presents the same picture. The facts contradict the claims that Muslims are being appeased. 

Muslims are victimized through communal riots. An atmosphere is created systematically for anti-Muslim pogroms. Before Bhagalpur riots (1989) leaflets of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Manasabha were circulated which said, "Hindu brothers, you must immediately awake and sacrifice your wealth and body for the protection of the Hindu people and nation and for the declaration of this country as a Hindu nation". The same was the experience of Gujarat riots 2002. Muslims have not learnt any lesson from major riots like Moradabad (1980), Bhagalpur (1989), Nellie (l987) and Gujarat (2002).

The Hindu-Muslim unity was in its zenith at the time of the Non-Cooperation- Khilafat joint action. The unity became an eyesore to the communalists. Hindu communalists exploited the Hindu-Muslim riots in Malabar in south India in 1921. The riots are known as Moplah rebellion. Tenants, mostly Muslims had rebelled against Hindu landlords. The rebellion revitalized Hindu communal leaders. After World War I, Hindu sabhas were founded in some provinces in 1922. They operated as a pressure group. 

No doubt, some people are doing their best to uplift the community. Syed Shahabuddin through his writings and Majlis-e-Mushawarat. Syed Hamid's Rabita Committee is active in education and health. Efforts of Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of MG, cannot be overlooked. Prof Iqbal Ansari is advocating for dialogue and reconciliation among communities. But if they do not get support of Muslim masses, they will not succeed in their endeavours. Ulama should work for the awakening of common Muslims. People who are engaged in constructive work for the community should be encouraged.

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