Ignored Plight of Dalit Muslims

Dalit Muslims
Photo Credit/ Al Jazeera

In recent times the issues of Muslim minority has been discussed much over the issues of their citizenship but many more important socio-economic issues have been left out  while focus has been more on religious identity issues. The issues such as employment, land, business, education, health, access to basic amenities and most important participation in governance has been ignored since long in spite of two major land mark Commission reports on Indian minority in post independent India.  The first commission was headed by Justice Rajindara Sachar (2006), former chief justice of Delhi High Court and the second was headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra, former chief justice of India (2007). Both the reports are an eye-opener to public about the status of religious minorities in India but very less being discussed among its stakeholders. Among the religious minorities the situation of Dalit Muslims is worst as they are prosecuted minorities among minorities because of their caste based social identities and they continue to suffer in spite of change in their faith while disconnected legally loosing status of Scheduled castes, as it is not being legally religion neutral and have been restricted to Hindu, Sikh (1955) and Buddhists (1990) only till date. They are also socially alienated from the major Dalit population of India commonly identified as scheduled castes in three religious groups. So currently many of Dalit Muslims are included in OBC category in different states.

Islam is the second largest religion of India. Studies by many such as ISI, New Delhi (2010), Abdur Rahman, Denial and Deprivation, (2019) and the various said commission reports found that the Muslim society in India is not homogeneous as they divided into four major social and economic classes as influence of caste system in India. The so called foreign ancestors, aristocrats and nobility , and indigenous converts , artisans , cultivators and  people involved in unclean activities or known as Arzals similar to the status of Dalits in Hindu Verna system. They can be called as Dalit Muslims and Pachamanda Muslims. In Indian society the Ashraf, (Sayyads, Sheikhs, Mughals, Pathans) are the land owners, civil and religious leaders.   And Ajlafs (mostly similar to Hindu Sudras/OBC) positioned in the middle mostly artisans and occupational groups such as Barbar, tailor, weaver etc.   The Arzals are the lowest like their Hindu counterparts. The Arzals are the Dalits of the Muslim community. They constitute a separate most deprived group within the Muslim society. Similarly the untouchables/scheduled castes converted to Christianity are called as Dalit Christians. The change in religion have not contributed much to upgrade their social and economic status in the new religion and even within their own religious fraternity rather they continue to face the same discriminatory treatment in social life and majority of them engaged in age old unclean occupations such as scavenging, washing, Dhobi, cleaning, Halalkhor, and occupations being seen as people of low social status. These issues are not being discussed much in the plea of internal issues under the carpet. Land less ness is very high among these communities as well as they are being deprived of basic amenities such as  homestead land , good housing , drinking water , toilet , electricity and sanitary facilities in their hamlets/Muhallas which are segregated in case of Dalit  Muslims. Usually the Govt. schemes very seldom reach to these ghettoized hamlets because of its outskirt locations and discriminatory attitude of the governing elites. The condition of elders, women and children in family is very miserable. They cannot enter into any petty business because of their social and religious identities but they are only selectively allowed to do few jobs since generations together. They are being offed with more holy education but very less has been done for their schooling and economic development and also for socialization and secularization. Inter caste /jamaats marriage are rare and often leads to social tension because of social hierarchy among Muslims. The suffering of Dalit Muslims they are not being protected by civil rights laws or any kind of affirmative actions of the Govt. which are to some extent available of scheduled castes. Religious laws are predominantly followed in socio-cultural spears of life rather than constitutional values and laws. Family, marriage and personal relations are more guided by religious notions and concept of purity and superiority. Constitutional provisions of liberty, equality, dignity and fraternity are mere words of books which are not being translated and introduced into social life. Indian upper caste /class of different religion have been continued to upholding their fraternity over grading based discriminatory ideas against lower castes and usually opposed to any progressive change to maintain their religious purity and religious identities. The issues of Dalit Muslims are not being discussed much by the Muslim elites and still it is under the carpet. There may not be report of prevalence of practice of untouchability against Dalit Muslims but caste based social discrimination and derivation is very much continuing without much radical change.

The Kaka Kalelkara Commission of 1955 and Mandal Commission of 1980 have very well recognized the issues of social and educational backwardness among major Muslim groups /castes and recommended to include them in OBCs. The implementation of OBC reservation though late but placed Muslims  as socially and educationally backward classes and also placed under OBCs to avail reservation in education and jobs but it is not based on religion rather on their  social and educational backwardness .The states such as Kerla (12%),Tamilanadu(3.5) , AP(4%) ,Telengana(4%) and Karanatak (4%) ,Manipur (4%),Bihar ,west Bengal and Uttar Pradesh , have made specific percentage, in bracket, of reservation for Muslims as backward class and most backward class to include the more deserving Muslim castes who are being suffering socially and having a lower economic status also. But in Odisha there is no minority commission and backward caste Muslims are not identified either as OBC or in SEBC list whereas Dalit Christians are included in the SCBC list in the state.

Why reservation in education and employment being preferred as an means of intervention for improving some ones social status because reservation has changed the hereditary  caste based occupations and make socialization of public employment by bringing caste diversity into it. Modern Education exposes to rational thinking, global outlook and build world view within an individual by injecting sense of dignity and self-respect which Jyoti Rao Phule and Dr. Ambedkar and  Sir Syed Ahamad Khan, founder of AMU, Hamid Dalwai  (1932-1977) founded Muslim Satyasodhak Samaj, Maharashtra, were always advocated for western liberal education. In recent times worldwide affirmative action has been accepted as a policy discourse to ensure equality by creating equal opportunity in spear of education and employment, which cannot be created by market forces or caste /class society but by state alone through constitutional and legal provisions. Inclusive democracies must be reflected in inclusive Governances and in a caste divided society the governance must be socially inclusive of different social identities by recognizing diversities as well as making space for all including the historically prosecuted communities such as Dalit Muslims.

In pre British period the upper caste Muslims were the rulers  and enjoyed power and privileges over  land ownership and  in  participating in the army, trade and business which  were in many ways  under their control but the situation of backward and Dalit Muslims have not changed much during Mughal  and later during  colonial rule with very minimal change . The introduction of English as official language by Lord Bentinck in 1935 had replaced the use of Urdu and Muslim official as the Muslims had have neglected English education and which was also one of the major reason of continued backwardness of Muslim communities. Though Muslims  played a major role in the anti-British struggle but they were not transformed themselves into rulers of post British India while few upper class Muslims along with  Indian upper caste take the advance of English education and continue their supremacy in every sector. Independent India has not been succeeded to a large extent to develop a common school system and equal opportunity of education for all irrespective of social and religious identities. The language policy of the Govt. also discriminatorily deprived the marginalized groups to access knowledge.

In Odisha though minority constitute 6 percent of the total population of the state where Muslims are more than two and half percent and about 10 lakh population but Muslim communities has not been identified in the OBC or SEBC list and the state Govt. has not setup any minority commission to look after the issues of minorities including Muslim minorities. There is no dedicated minority department with minister from minority groups in the state and also there is absence of any minority financial corporation to encourage self-employment among minority youth. A secular regional state Govt. with equal-distance from left, right and centre has been generously contributing to build temples, mosques and Churches in the name of beautification and religious tourism promotion out of state budget. People of different religion both Hindu and Muslims and others are supported out of state fund for pilgrimage. There is no allocation for upgrading of Madrasas for a better quality education of Muslim children and Urdu language the way Sanskrit is being promoted. But all most all parties have minority cells to satisfy the minority political leaders as party agents among the people who are also being downsized and tagged with leaders of only minorities and  not be given a chance within the party to serve the state . What is the allocation of Govt. of Odisha for minorities’ development in the budget and what are the state sponsored programme for minorities are the two major questions that helps  to understand the motive of the state Govt.

Manas Jena is a social activist Email: [email protected]




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