It’s Islam versus Muslims in UP Census 2011

It isn’t long back, as memory is still fresh, about how the erstwhile National Democratic Alliance (NDA) went to town, over the findings of the Census 2001, which was released in 2004, and it was declared that Muslim growth rate had increased, and that of Hindus’ had fallen! This had happened because Jammu and Kashmir data was merged together with the national data for the first time. The goof-up was intentional, only, to perpetuate the stereotype, that Muslims are increasing their numbers, to make India become a Muslim majority state, thereby, infusing a siege mentality, amongst the Hindus, for the inevitable polorisation in their voting pattern, which all this time had fallen! As United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by secular Congress has been extra cautious, to camouflage it by making it that the number of those professing Islam has gone down automatically.

The glaring mishap came to light when the much touted method used in the census process, a protégé of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, has gone down with Muslims who have the largest presence in Uttar Pradesh, as compared to the whole of India. The questionnaire put to them, in the column for Is Islam or Muslim their religion is now the big question!

The issue is with the technical layout. It may be known that the census form, under Question 7 pertains to Household Schedule, which concerns religion-as a part of the questionnaire supplied to the respondents. It has a set of six choices under it. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and Jain-which is supplemented by a code to be entered. In case the respondent ticks some other religion, then, it is automatically recorded as ‘other’. Now it is here that things have gone awry as it is not clear whether a Muslim, who professes Islam as a religion, has in the record, ‘other’ as considered as his or her religion as the clause of Islam is missing! Obviously and as well understood, this has led to a great amount of unease amongst Muslims in the whole of UP, where the Muslim concentrated districts, as demarcated by the latest Rajender Sachar Report, are 22. Muslims are more than 37 million in numbers in UP. For this purpose, the government of India , had once initiated an electoral list in Urdu language, in the 125 (out of 403) Muslim concentrated assembly seat in UP along with 25 parliament seats (out of 80) where Muslims makes-up 20 percent to 50 percent of the overall electorates. “Democracy is a game of numbers. Everything is derived (and now derided) from the census report. The Muslim weight in terms of their numeric strength is well charted in UP. This sequence gives an unprecedented sensitivity to the overall census process and no doubt the latest manoeuvring has yet again shown that the establishment is bent upon to anyhow disturb the Muslim equilibrium,” says Professor Syed Shahid Akhtar Jafri. Jafri has for long been working with the Census of India and is today associated with Giri Institute of Development and Studies, Lucknow which is one of India's premier research institute.

“The anomaly stems from a deliberate intention, as I cannot discount the capabilities of those who fill the census-forms as they are all learned bureaucrats. How come they did not realise that Muslims follow the religion Islam. It has revived the memories of Britishers who called Muslims Muhammedans on the lines of Christians who worship Lord Christ,” he said further. He also gave a suggestion which is as yet to be heard. “Actually, the Department of Census should have been deservingly put under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, not under the purview of the Ministry of Home. The government should do this. The earlier the better or else the credibility of the government would continue to take a serious blow,” he cautioned.

“It is indeed very irksome to find this institutionalised muddling with Muslim figures. Whether it is census or the election department the baseline is laced with the same contempt. Muslim names are not recorded in the first place, even if they are recorded, they are deleted or smudged off from the electoral lists. Examples of Muslim localities being deleted have been brought to light. Every election eve is the same old story,” said Muhammad Azam Khan, a seven time MLA from Rampur. His constituency has more than 70 % Muslim voters. What warrants attention is that apart from the state capital-Lucknow, there have been 21 other districts in UP, namely, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Bulandshehr, Badaun, Barabanki, Kheri, Shahjehanpur, Muradabad, Rampur, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Bareily, Pilibhit, Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Siddharthnagar, UdhamSingh Nagar, Bijnaur where there is a sizeable Muslim population ranging -between 20 percent to 50 percent. There has been a huge slew of complaints by Muslims, from all these districts, for being listed under ‘other’ instead of being under Islam, thus, forcing the Census Directorate of UP (CDUP) to take cognizance of the issue. CDUP has now decided to send a report to Registrar General and Census Commissioner, New Delhi. It has been learnt that Pradeep Kant, the Joint Director of UP Census Operations, has asked the respective District Magistrates (of the same districts) to identify survey blocks having Muslim population, in order to determine the veracity of the complaint, so that the work starts at the earliest.

It might be reiterated that much before the census survey some Muslim organisations had sent representations to Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner highlighting the fact that Islam is their religion and not Muslim, and to which the RGI had directed that Islam be recorded as religion with a Code 2, but during the survey, Muslims found the census representatives recording ‘Muslim’ or ‘other’ as their religion! Despite the clear cut directives. “We have also seen the census representatives, filling Hindi as ‘mother tongue’, of Muslims, all on their own, and when questioned, they would fill Urdu with a pencil, which can easily be rubbed-off before the survey goes into the grand software. We would never believe in this census report. There is a contemptuous attitude which mars the whole process apart from the official discrepancies,” said Syed Mohsin Jamal, a senior journalist in Lucknow. “Muslims have been staying in India since the past one millennium and still the establishment is ignorant. This is something which smacks of some civilisational turpitude which has come out from the persecution complex of the majority community. It is time to shed such coloured glasses or else India would continue to suffer,” said Syed Muhammed Ahmed, the UP West and Uttaranchal chief of Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind. Let’s see how the census department will now build its credibility in order to resuscitate its fast eroding image.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2011 on page no. 5

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