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Alienation of the Muslim Citizen

By Shreya Govil


The article focuses on the systematic alienation of Muslim citizens in India. It highlights their exclusion in terms of public employment and their lack of participation in the same. Their ostracization is due to the belief that they are not loyal to the country. The literacy rates amongst the Muslim community are also abysmally low due to such ostracization and lack of government support to mend the situation. The article provides a deeper insight into the lives of the Muslim citizens of the country and the need for reforms to mend the situation.

 Certain Muslim communities in India seem to have been through systematic disenfranchisement. Feelings of belongingness are deeply rooted in an inclusive system that works for them. But if people of a country are often questioned and their citizenship is often invalidated, it is bound to fuel feelings of exclusion.

The citizenship of Indian Muslims is often questioned and they are not seen as a part of the Indian citizenry, which leads to them towards feeling a lack of sense of belonging, and feeling excluded  and isolated from the rest of the nation. This article focuses on the exclusion of Indian Muslims and how questions about their citizenship, result in them not having access to good education, public employment and proper political representation. Drawing upon various pieces of evidence it may be argued that not being seen as Indian citizens deprives them of the systemic support that other minorities get to improve their condition.

Sanchar’s committee published a report in 2006, according to which  Muslims are by far the most excluded and alienated community in India. Exclusion is the inability of a community to make meaningful contributions to society. People are often excluded on the basis of caste, gender, sex or religion and such exclusion is faced mostly by women, Dalits, Adivasis and other minorities. These communities lack access to opportunities for social, economic or political growth. n order to understand why there is such ostracization of Muslims it is necessary to analyze the behaviour of the majority towards Muslims immediately  after Independence. When India became independent Muslims in India, especially in light of the incidents of partition,  needed to prove that they were loyal to India and worthy of Indian citizenship. This was very different from the experience of Hindus, as Hindus who were loyalist were considered to be nationalists, first and foremost and they were either ‘Hindu nationalist’ or ‘secular nationalist’ depending on their political views. But Muslims on the other hand were seen only as Muslims. Their expressions of loyalty were not taken seriously by the majority as they felt the alliances could not change so quickly, and thus, Muslims might still be harboring feelings of sympathy for Pakistan. f they were somehow able to successfully prove their loyalty to the country, only then were they considered  nationalist Muslims. 

The words Hindu or Indian were often used interchangeably which made the experience of the Hindu citizens very different. This furthered the feelings of ostracization among Muslims as they were made to feel that they are not “Indian enough” and need to prove their worthiness for Indian citizenship. The impact of such isolation can be understood by analyzing the disparities between Muslims and other communities.

There has been a severe impact on the access to education and literacy rates of Muslims due to such exclusion. According to the Sanchar report, in comparison to other minorities, Muslims are worse off in terms of “mean years of schooling, attendance levels, dropout rates and completion of matriculation and graduation.” The literacy rate among Muslims is 59 per cent while the national average is 65.1 per cent in 2001, which again shows the disparities between Muslims and other communities.  Apart from this, most Muslims do not have access to proper schooling. Different kinds of constraints and difficulties are faced by minority educational institutions, particularly the ones that are run by Muslims. These institutions can play a very important role in increasing literacy rates among Muslims but are unable to do so due to lack of governmental support. Educational institutions in minority concentration areas rarely get any government support and are often neglected. There are very few educational institutes in predominantly Muslim areas. Difficulty in obtaining proper access to school education has resulted in few Muslims getting access to higher and professional education. Due to lack of education and literacy, gender inequality among Muslims has worsened; the sex ratio in this community is 936 as per the 2001 census and the literacy rate among women is just 50 per cent, which shows a huge disparity between men and women. 

Over the years it has been observed that the representation of Muslims in public employment has been very low. In the Gopal Singh committee report, it was found that the presence of Muslims in the elite Indian Administrative Service (I.A.S.) stood at 2.9 per cent of the total intake that year. Over the years the maximum intake in a year stood at 7.5 per cent of the total intake. The committee found that in 2006 the presence of Muslims in the I.A.S was 3 per cent and only 2.3 per cent of them were direct recruits while the rest had been promoted from state service. It is important to note that very often Muslim candidates qualify for the written tests but lose out at the interview stage. In the I.A.S exam of 1993, 789 Muslims qualified for the written exam but only 20 of them were able to clear the interview. This was only 2.5 per cent of the total number of Muslim candidates who qualified. Another interesting statistic to be noted is that in different ministries of the central government 677 Muslims are employed in the class 1 jobs and 39,375 Muslims are employed in class 2 as of 31st March 1971. An observation that can be made on the basis of all these statistics is that different institutions of public employment hire very few Muslims at higher governmental posts and these structures work in such a manner that they prevent Muslims from becoming direct recruits at these high posts. As the ratio between the number of candidates qualifying the written paper to the number of candidates clearing the interview reflects a deep-seated institutional bias

“The fact is that Indian Politics acknowledged Muslims in so far as it did, only as a supplicant minority, not as full citizens.” Muslims more often than not do not get adequate political representation and very rarely represented by  politicians that truly embody and work towards the interest of the Muslims. This has been an issue the Muslim community has been facing since independence. Right after India gained its independence, the minority-dominated areas where Muslims were in majority were recognised and were split into various parts to be absorbed into other states. This reduced their influence in these areas and thus made it very difficult for them to win elections. India follows the first-past-the-post system (FPTP), which worked against the Muslims and reduced their political strength. This made it difficult for Muslims to become representatives of the whole community. Apart from this, sometimes, Muslim voters were prevented from exercising their rights as a voter. There have been times when the names of Muslims have been deleted from electoral rolls. For example in 1994 in Hyderabad and Sikenderabad names of 1,38,000 Muslim voters were deleted from the electoral rolls. The true essence of politics is that it necessitates accessibility to public spaces and a public discourse, where issues that are common to the whole society can be discussed without any difficulty. But Muslims are often excluded from such discussions. Although internally some Muslim leaders have been able to create a political space for Muslims, the aim is to able to recognize and satisfy the distinct needs of the community, while making sure that they do not succumb to extremism or become a tool of the state. 

Since independence Indian Muslims have had to prove their loyalty towards India in order to be considered worthy of its citizenship. Something the other communities in the country did not have to do. Despiter this, they face exclusion from the government in terms of not getting better educational facilities in areas where Muslims are in majority. Whenever a community has very low literacy rates the government steps in to improve the situation, however, in the case of Indian Muslims the government has never taken any substantial steps to improve their situation. Same is the case with low participation of Muslims in public employment and them getting no support from government to improve their situation. The fact that very few Muslims qualify the interview rounds of I.A.S shows that those selecting candidates might have an anti-Muslim bias and this bias results in Muslims not getting employed at higher posts. The lack of political representation and division of states and constituencies in a way that is electorally disadvantageous for Muslims makes it difficult for Muslims to win even Muslim majority areas. Such features of the state make Muslim people lose any sense of belonging they might have with the government, its institutions, or even the country.

The questions over Muslim citizenship are based on the belief that Muslims are responsible for the Partition. Thus they are not loyal, so they cannot be trusted with Indian citizenship. However,  careful analysis of the situation leads us to the realization that Indian Muslims despite experiencing insufficient access to important state resources like education and employment never expressed their adversities through separatist tendencies or political fanaticism. Despite being in large numbers, Indian Muslims almost never mobilized politically around a particular Muslim party. In conclusion, the basis on which the citizenship of Muslims is questioned, needs to be reconsidered.

About the Author

Shreya Govil is a student of the B.A. LL.B 2020-2025 batch of Jindal Global Law School. Their areas of interest are constitutional law, gender studies and Human rights law.

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