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Muslims in independent India - The Observer

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan ()
January 2, 1999

Title: Muslims in independent India
Author: Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Publication: The Observer
Date: January 2, 1999

At the request of certain educated Muslims and non-Muslims of
Pune, I addressed a common gathering on November 6, 1991 on a
topic of their choice, Muslims in Post-Independent India.

In preparation for this, I had to assess the Muslim condition
from two different angles - the economic and the religious.
After considerable research, I discovered that, quite contrary to
common belief, the Muslims' lot has appreciably improved since
partition in 1947.

In fact, any Muslim I picked out for assessment, or any Muslim
settlement I made the subject of my research, was clearly in a
better state than in the past.

It is true that Muslims are faced with certain problems and
difficulties. But this should not be made not an issue,
considering that it is hardly possible to have a completely
problem-free life.

A problem-free situation should not, therefore, be set up as the
criterion by which to judge the condition of a group or
community. God's law for this world provides for difficulties
and ease to exist side by side at all times. If this were not
so, life's struggle would cease altogether. And a society bereft
of struggle would be longer spawn living individuals; it would
instead become the graveyard of the intellect.

Given this state of affairs, the Muslim condition cannot be
judged by utopian standards, it should be judged rather by a set
of realistic criteria based on what is patently possible. I
attempted to form an independent opinion based on my own
knowledge and findings. My search led me to conclusions quite
the contrary of the story that is constantly repeated about the
Muslims, as if it were an axiom.

First of all, I went into the conditions of those misters and
maulvis who are held to be the representatives of the Muslims in
modern times. I found that each one of them - most of them are
known to me directly or indirectly - had considerably improved
his position in life after 1947. All leaders without exception,
whether secular or religious, had a better standard of living
than they had enjoyed prior to Independence.

Then I assessed the position of my own, very large family. Again
I found that all my relatives were in a far better state than
hitherto. Then I looked at the Muslims in the various localities
of my own hometown and in other cities too where I have stayed
for some time, and still frequently visit. My observation of the
Muslims living there again revealed that almost everyone has
improved his standard of living in the post-Independence era.

I spent several weeks investigating matters relating to this
topic. Finally, I came to the conclusion that in the post-1947
era, Muslims have clearly made progress in this country. They
are, today, in a far better state than before.

I visited a Muslim acquaintance of mine who was born in a village
in a farmer's family. After completing his education, he went on
to become a gazetted officer. We often used to meet and each time
he would complain that bias and prejudice in India left no
opportunity for Muslims to progress.

After an interval of three years, I went to see him at his home.
He had previously lived in a flat, but was lodged in a spacious
bungalow with guards and a host of servants. About ten acres of
land with several different crops growing on it surrounded the
bungalow, adding to its magnificence. I learnt that over the
past two years he had several promotions and was now a very
highly placed officer. It was due to his high position that he
had now been allotted this palatial bungalow.

There were frequent references - of course, with pride - to his
bungalow, his post and so on. A few years prior to this,
everytime we met, he would speak only of prejudice.

Now, he spoke only of his own greatness. It was this experience
which made me understand the basic deficiency which has kept
Muslims unaware of the actual state of affairs in the country.
It is simply the inability to recognise and come to grips with

In life, there are good things. When an individual receives his
share of the bad things - one of life's realities: he begins to
complain about being the victim of prejudice. But when he
receives his share of the good things, he considers this the
result of his own capability and endeavour, and thus falls a prey
to pride.

He neither acknowledges the benefits he enjoys as a divine
blessing, for which he should be grateful to God, nor does he
look to his own shortcomings as the reason for his lack of
success. In this way, lie falls to see either the positive or
the negative situation from the correct angle. Regular attempts
are made to prove that Indian Muslims suffer deprivation by
quoting statistics on their minimal recruitment to government
services. An English monthly, brought out in Delhi by Muslims,
publishes data in almost every issue, which gives the figure of
two per cent as the Muslims share in public offices. It is held
that with this very low percentage of recruitment, Muslims are
grossly under-represented in the country's administration in
terms of the proportion they made up of the national population.

Arguments based on this data appear to be logically compelling,
but the data itself leaves certain factors out of account, such
as the backwardness of Muslims at the university level of

Another factor left unstressed by these statistics is the
composition of the Muslim's twelve per cent of the population.
About half of this percentage is accounted for by women.

That means that about half of the potential work-force is
permanently out of the picture, because Muslim traditions are
against women going out to work in government offices. In this
way, half of the Muslim population is automatically deleted from
the list of recruits of government service. This leaves 10 per
cent, but out of that three per comprises of those who are
insufficiently educated. The two per cent ratio of Muslims in
government services, albeit extremely low, does not then appear
totally injustifiable.

There are at least two definite reasons for this. One, that the
issue of recruitment to the services is related to the
government, and the wielders of power have always taken into
account their own political interests in the allotment of posts
in the services. Even if these rulers are personally sincere,
they adopt, due to national and international consideration, a
policy In regard to government service where the basis of
decision-making is not simply prospering of a balance between the
different communities making up the population, but the
concessions are made to political imperatives. This is a state
which exists in all societies and under all government systems.

For instance, the Sindhi Muslims of Pakistan complain that, in
the central government services, the Punjabi Muslims are over-
represented, while they themselves have fewer posts than their
ratio would actually warrant. In Iraq, most of the high
government posts are given to Shi'ites, so that Sunnis are mostly
deprived of them. This same state of affairs exists in most
Muslim countries in one way or another.

In India, too, such disparities exist at various levels. However,
they do not exist only between Hindus and Muslims, but also
between Hindus and Hindus.

For instance, in appointments to high government posts, members
of the Brahmin caste far outstrip Hindus of other castes.
Similarly, the English-educated class bags more government posts
than the Hindi-educated class.

Muslims, for various reasons, also find themselves at a
disadvantage, but this is a problem which is common to most
groups and does not affect the Muslims alone.

Perhaps a more telling point is that government service relates
more to the processes of administration than to economics,
accounting as it does for a mere two per cent of the distribution
of the country's economic resources.

There is a much vaster field outside the administration in which
people may earn a good living. Therefore, if a group is only
marginally represented m government services, it does not
necessarily follow that it must remain economically deprived.
There are innumerable fields open to those seeking employment,
and it is quite possible that once they enter them, they may find
them more lucrative than even the highest government posts.

Many historical examples can be cited in support of this
viewpoint. One example in the recent past is the high level of
prosperity attained by the Hindus in the erstwhile state of
Hyderabad, despite the marked preference shown to Muslims in the
allocation of government posts.

This was because the Hindus had captured the fields of commerce
and industry throughout the State.

By engaging themselves in commercial pursuits they gained a far
better economic position than they could ever have expected from
positions in the administration.

The economic position of Indian Muslims should be judged not just
by their ratio in government services, but by their success (or
failure) in the spheres of commerce, industry, science and
education. Mere representation in government services is no
criterion by which to gauge their true economic worth.

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