By Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI—Muslims of India, contrary to claims made by the central and state governments, lag on every development indices. This fact has been reinforced by a comprehensive audit report of 10 Muslim-concentrated districts in Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and UP. The report was unveiled at the Press Club of India on Monday in the presence of a galaxy of public intellectuals, activists and mediapersons.
The report has been prepared under the aegis of the SPECT Foundation by research scholars Sajid Ali and Dr Bano Jyotsna.
Introducing the importance and relevance of such a fact-finding report, Prashant Tandon, a senior journalist, said that Muslims form one of the most persecuted social groups of India and their persecution is linked to their systematic othering in government’s development schemes. “Thus, reports like this one have significant value to measure discrimination against Muslims. This documentation will catch the attention of all connected stakeholders and will hopefully pave the way for corrective measures,” he said.
Dr Bano Jyotsna, one of the writers of the report, said that when the famous Sachar Committee report exposed eras of discrimination against Muslims, it was a watershed moment in the study of marginalised societies. “The Sachar Committee report revealed that Muslims faced targeted biases on all key indices like education, health, businesses and employment. This report was followed by Ranganath Mishra Commission and Amitabh Kundu Committee recommendations that suggested action-based solutions to uplift backward Muslims in 90 districts where Muslims were 30% or more. Sadly, they merely remained suggestions. We have studied 10 of 90 districts identified by the Sachar Committee,” she said. She added that the SPECT report is the first part of the series of reports that will further unearth marginalisation of Muslims.
Sajid Ali, another writer of the report, said that the districts that the report focused are Araria, Purnea, Kishanganj, Katihar (Bihar), Dhubr, Kokrajhar (Assam), Malda, Murshidabad (West Bengal) and Shravasti and Balrampur (UP). He said that these districts have around 1.4 crore Muslims that make up for 5% of total Muslim population in India.
“Our modus operandi was to pit the state aggregate of government scheme benefits vis a vis these districts. We collected data even on block and tehsil level to know the ground situation. We found that Muslims have experienced discrimination in areas including employment, education, and housing. Many encounter barriers to achieving political power and wealth, and lack access to health care and basic services. Moreover, they often struggle to secure justice after suffering discrimination, despite constitutional protections,” he said. He added that despite living in acute depravity, Muslims face communal attitudes from fellow Hindus and law enforcement agencies like police and they are seen as if they are multiplying in numbers year after year.
He said that the report also busts a myth that the Modi government has provided proportional allocation to Muslims, especially pasmandas (backward), in Pradhanmantri Awas Yojna. “Only in one district, Muslims got 31% allotments, even though they are 48% of the population. In other districts, the figure was less,” he said.
The report highlights that all the Muslim-concentrated districts have paucity of government facilities and infrastructure.
Dr Apoorvanand, a noted activist and Delhi University professor, said that the government prefers to project that the government schemes are community-neutral and thus work for all sections. “One interesting example of this is Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraraman’s recent statement on foreign soil that since Muslim population is increasing, they are happy in India,” said Apoorvanand.
Professor S. Irfan Habib, Professor Nandini Sundar and Dalit activist Anil Chamadia also endorsed the report and said that it indicts the central and state governments that feign to espouse secularism and practice communalism when it comes to empower Muslims.