Has UPA Really Helped Muslims?

Has Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) fulfilled the promises it made several years ago to help in the progress of Indian Muslims? The importance of an answer to this question is certainly linked with parliamentary elections scheduled for 2014.  When the present government assumed power, the initial phase was marked by great assurances being dished out to India’s largest minority community. One wonders whether the same rhetoric is ready to be replayed again as a part of the electoral campaign for 2014. As respected leaders deliberate on their electoral strategy, it is imperative to question the degree to which they have really implemented their commitment towards the Indian Muslims. Or did the importance of their promises and the so-called commitment remain confined to paper, rhetoric and advertisements in Urdu press?  

Not too long ago, the government displayed a lot of enthusiasm while taking note of the report submitted by Sachar Committee. It seemed then that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seriously considering some major moves to help Muslims who, according to Sachar, had touched the bottom of the Indian society. Undeniably, the Sachar report still retains its importance as an official document, but it is difficult to say the same about the government having really taken any serious action to address the situation discovered by Sachar.

There is no doubt that the report played a major role in making people aware about the kind of problems Indian Muslims were/are suffering from. The report also shed some light on Muslims languishing in jails for no fault of theirs. It may be noted that Indian Muslims themselves were fairly well-versed about these hard realities. The report was thus an eye-opener for the government and others who were not aware of the hardships faced by Muslims in the country.

Surely, hype was not raised regarding the report only on ground of it being an eye-opener. Initially, the impression was created about the report having generated a wake-up call on the need to pay serious attention towards the development of Indian Muslims. The question is: what steps have really been taken in this direction? For instance, how many innocent Muslims have actually been released from prisons following this report?  

Ironically, illiteracy of Muslims has in general always been blamed for their being a backward community. It is difficult to accept this view. The situation would have been different if Muslims were the only community in India who could be viewed as illiterate and backward. If an area suffers from lack of basic educational facilities, such as schools and colleges, because of which residents of the area cannot acquire education, why should Muslims living here be blamed? A similar illiteracy rate prevails among non-Muslims too living in the same area.

 The fact that several Muslim organizations are seriously involved in establishing and supporting madarsas in even remote rural areas cannot be sidelined. At least, these people are making the effort to ensure that their community progresses. Nowadays, increasing importance is being paid to imparting education in basic subjects, apart from Islamic, in these madarsas. In quite a few places, even non-Muslims turn to these madarsas, to learn a little. Despite the Muslims making efforts, if they still top illiteracy charts, who is at fault?

There is no denying the fact that Sachar committee report prompted the central government to “commit” itself to release funds for programmes dedicated towards the development of minorities. Strangely, to this day there has been no significant pronouncement which may indicate the degree to which Muslims have benefitted from these programmes. One is compelled to deliberate on this strange silence. Has the government deliberately decided to maintain a silence or in essence, nothing much has really been achieved?

 Sadly, the government has practically nothing to boast of regarding its efforts towards progress of Muslim women. They hit headlines usually only when a fatwa is issued or a court judgment delivered concerning their rights, etc. It may be noted that Sachar committee did not have any female member.  

There is no denying that decision of Muslim women to exercise their electoral rights to vote can play a major role in turning the political tide in today’s India. This has been displayed in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Had Muslim women decided not to cast their votes, the results may have been different. Despite their being committed to play a responsible role as Indian citizens, it is a tragic irony that the needed steps have not been taken for their progress. There have been phases when National Commission for Women has not had any Muslim member. Undeniably, when hype is raised about reservation for women in politics, special attention is paid to quota for Muslim women. It is a well-known fact, prospect of such a reservation issue being ever finalized remains a remote possibility. Greater importance needs to be given for taking constructive steps to help Muslim women.

 Six years have passed since submission of Sachar committee report. How many Muslims have benefitted following “steps” taken by government for their progress, a lakh, 10, 20, 50 lakhs, how many? If the government doesn’t have any answer to this question then it must answer, why?

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2012 on page no. 11

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