Law · Public Policy

Struggle of Muslims for Equality

India’s history dates back to the Indus valley civilization where Aryans from central Asia came and ruled over India. The growth of Muslim population in India began with invasions by Turks such as Muhammad Ghori, Ghaznavi etc. Slowly, this small population conquered India and started ruling over population which was largely non Muslims. They ruled India for about 800 years. However during British colonization, Hindus and Muslims were subjugated to British rule. And today, Muslims are the largest minority in India and are a socially and educationally backward community. This leads one to wonder how Muslims who were once the rulers of this country, are today as backward as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India and need protection & opportunity.

Two events were mainly responsible for start of Muslim backwardness in India. First being – the negative attitude towards modernization and second – the partition of India. Most of the Muslims refused to accept modern education and other views brought by Britishers in India. For eg. they refused to learn English as a mark of defiance and revolt against Britishers in India. Even a fatwa was issued against Sir Saiyad who started teaching English in Aligarh[1].Muslim clerics and maulvies succeeded in keeping them secluded from British modern education and confined them to madarsas so that they could focus on Quran, Sunnahs and other religious texts only. While Hindus, on other hand, readily accepted the change and adopted modern English and rose in economic status whereas most of the Muslims found themselves engaged in meager jobs[2]. Hindus ascended in terms of economic and other powers while Muslims who were once mansabdars and belonged to well-to-do families declined because of their negative view towards modernization. During partition of India, most of the few rich and educated Muslims shifted to Pakistan leaving behind a mass of Muslim population who was socially and educationally backward.

After partition, various mullahs belonging to various Muslim organizations and groups like the All-India Milli Council, the Jamaat-e Islami came up on the scene and presented themselves as the sole defenders of Indian Muslims. These groups make minimal demands related to their own religion like instead of demanding proper educational opportunities, more representation in public jobs etc[3]. Their actual needs are not represented effectively to the government. Even ‘the political parties just try to ‘appease’ Muslims and have not succeeded in doing anything concrete to uplift them.

Socially speaking, Muslims have the second lowest infant (56 /1000) and under – five( 75/1000) mortality rate in India.[4] In percentage of children who are underweight Muslims have second highest percentage (42%). In percentage of children who are stunted, they share highest proportion (45%) and in low birth- weight babies index , they are second lowest(20%) [5].

The Ministry of Minority Affairs in India found that more than 1 million Muslim children study in madrasas only which do not offer education in Maths, Science or other standard subjects. Muslims have the highest dropout rate in the country. As many as 25% children in age group of 6-14 have never attended the school or have dropped out.[6] Only 1 out of 25 students in under graduate programme and 1 out of 50 students in post graduate programme is a Muslim in premier colleges of India.

Due to poor educational standards, they are unable to get high paid and well respected jobs like engineers, Doctors, Civil Servants etc. Muslims constitute an abysmally low percentage in the public/ private sector of just 6.1% whereas all other groups have higher share than them. Even in the government sector, they have the lowest share of 23.7 %[7].Muslims constituted only 4.9% of candidates appearing for civil services in 2003- 04. They share only 3% in IAS, 1.8% in IPS and 4% in IFS services as opposed to their 13.4 % share in Indian population according to 2001 census[8].

Their educational backwardness leads to economic backwardness which in turn leads to social backwardness. Incidence of poverty is highest among Muslims in urban areas with ratio 38.4% whereas national average was 22.7% for poverty[9].A large population in urban areas are living in very low expenditure bracket of Rs. 500[10].

Data on the present conditions of Muslims in India is largely the result of findings of Sachar Committee. It was for the first time that efforts were made to analyze the position of Indian Muslims in social, economic and employment indicators and results of various policies formulated for betterment of them. The committee was constituted in 2005 under the head of former judge of Delhi High Court – Rajinder Sachar,J. which gave its report in 2006[11].

Some of its recommendations were to link madrasas with higher secondary school boards so that students can shift to higher schools after completing their education in madrasas, setting up an autonomous monitoring body which can analyze the actual working of various social policies for Muslims like Equal Opportunity Commission etc. Though India  has introduced many initiatives like 15 point Minority Welfare Programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Reservations, National Commission for Minorities etc. in addition to the constitutional mandate for achieving equality but, the results are very known to the people.

Instead of making attempts at the higher level, efforts must first be focused at the grass root level. As educational backwardness is one of the main reason which is abetted and which in turn abets the other types of backwardness, more efforts should be made to increase the attendance of Muslim children in primary schools and then going for higher education. We can expect Muslims’ presence in higher institutions only if they mark their presence in primary and secondary schools. More awareness campaigns should be organized about the various govt. schemes being run for their benefit. There should be end to communal politics. Some people just use them to garner votes.

Equality can’t be achieved overnight. There has to be continuous, real collaboration between the government and the people. Govt. schemes are simply instruments through which they can uplift themselves. The ultimate role has to be played by the people. Only then the cherished goal of our constitution makers can be achieved in its real sense.

About the Author

Kanchan Singla

Kanchan is a second year law student at National Law University, Delhi. Out of the subjects that she has studied till now, she takes interests in criminal Law. Her hobbies include painting, watching movies, listening to songs etc.


[1]Chaturanan Mishra, Basic Causes of Muslim Backwardness, Vol XLV  No. 24, Mainstream Weekly (2006) last accessed on 12 August 2014.

[2]Dr. Radhasyam Brahmachari, Sachar Committee Report Uncovered Backwardness of India’s Muslims Part-2, (April 4, 2009)  last accessed on  12 August 2014.

[3]Yoginder Sikand, Accounting for Muslim Backwardness in India: Going Beyond Sachar, last accessed on 12 August, 2014.

[4]ANIL B. DEOLALIKAR, The Performance of Muslims in Social Indicators : A Comparative Analysis,  in HANDBOOK OF MUSLIMS ,71(Rakesh Basant and Abusaleh Shariff  1 ed, 2010)

[5] Id.

[6]Mohamed Shafi Qureshi, Sachar Compilation,  last accessed on 12 August 2014.

[7] Id


[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Aarish Ullah Khan, Muslims in India : A Bleak Past, An Uncertain  Future last accessed on 12 August 2014.

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