An Agenda for Indian Muslims

By MJ Khalid

Like other communities, Indian Muslims, too, have contributed enormously to develop a liberal democratic society in the country. The overall contribution of Muslims has made a qualitative impact on the national scene to an extent that cannot be wiped off, despite vindictive efforts to marginalize them. Some people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike have taken special interest in focused studies of Indian Muslims and their socio-economic conditions in current times. The discourse has progressed from informed and less informed speculation to diligent collection and analysis of actual conditions based on real data.

But how long will the debate continue that Muslims in India are not a monolithic entity? Muslims in Ladakh are by culture entirely different from those in Pondicherry, so is the case with Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. The differences arise due to different demographic necessities, languages and life styles. But Indian Muslims come together when it comes to issues of faith. One should remember that unlike other countries, Muslims have lived in India’s religiously plural society for a millennium and they are not homogenous in racial or linguistic terms and bear the impact of local cultural surroundings in terms of manners and customs.

The story of modern development is not the same all over the world. Despite the high rise graph of economy and living conditions in the West, some African and Asian nations are still highly under-developed. In the economic field, the sun of peace, wealth, health and happiness does not rise equally for all even in today’s global village.

Looking at these issues from an Indian Muslim point of view, the last three decades have been a source of constant pain. From the Shah Bano case to Babri demolition to the pogrom in Gujarat, we have been continuously at the receiving end. The chain of confidence-shaking incidents continues. Some have even tried to connect us even to West Asian disturbances just because we share the same faith. With the passage of time, substantial changes are taking place in the strategies and priorities of the vicious planners who project themselves as saviours.

By and large, Muslims are a peaceful lot by nature and choice. But it should not be forgotten that protecting one’s self-respect is a birth-right of every human being and you cannot deny anyone this right. According to the latest report published by Government of India, Muslims are educationally and economically backward in comparison to other communities.

The global IT revolution has energized young minds and they are destined to move forward. At times, some nations and generations suffer due to structural faults but no power can keep them backward for ever. But it is also a fact that, like other groups, Muslims in India too are part and parcel of the manifold economic success story.

The agenda is clear. Muslims’ fundamental effort is to strengthen their economic condition both as a community and as individuals. According to modern theory, the economic growth of any nation has to be multifarious and no group should be left out. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve inclusive growth which means opportunity to all, participation of all and development of all.

In the post-Sachar stage, though a number of specific policies and programmes have been designed to address the socio-economic backwardness of the Muslim community but, unfortunately, those who are responsible for the implementation of these programmes do not seem to be interested. As a result, these efforts are not leading anywhere. Ultimately, it is the duty of the government to check the erring officials and sick political leaders who are hand-in-glove to frustrate these efforts.

Educational and    economic    uplift is the agenda for Indian Muslims today. Muslim socio-religious organizations are taking various initiatives which is a welcome sign for the country. The idea is to explore spheres where socio-educational organizations can comfortably work to enhance the capacity-building, designing educational patterns and cementing bridges between communities.

The agenda is set. Read the writing on the wall and make others learn to read. There will certainly be no saviour if you let a room for confusion.

As far as the political awakening is concerned, the realization has already made a mark that as democratically equal partners, Muslims can make their weight felt in the political decision-making and seek a fair treatment too. The result of previous Assembly election held in 2012 speaks volume of the correctness of this conclusion.
The author is Chairman, Group of Alternate Thinkers,
New Delhi

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2012 on page no. 2

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