Indian Muslims constitute 14.2 % of total Indian population according to the Census 2011. It is also the largest religious minority in India and the second largest Muslim population in the world. Many parts of India were under Muslim rule for over seven centuries. There is hardly any field in India without Muslim contributions. Indian Muslims fought valiantly along with others to liberate the country from the colonial rule.
What happened later? In 1947 India gained freedom and became a sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic. The same day India was partitioned and the bulk of Muslims came under the newly formed Pakistan bringing down their number in India. This minority, which opted to remain in India, was made to bear the brunt of Partition. They were often treated as second class citizens whose loyalty to the nation came frequently under scrutiny. The community became more and more backward, marginalized and victimized in subsequent years.
Even a cursory look at the available data will show that Muslim community remains as one of the most depressed sections in the country. Poverty among them is the highest in urban population. Their literacy rate is low and their children dropout early from schools. Their representation in government jobs are not even half of their proportionate share in population. They are constantly subjected to discrimination and communal hostility. They face the triple crises of Identity, Equity and Security. Various internal as well as external factors have contributed to this fall. Their own internal disunity and unwillingness to creatively utilise the challenges and opportunities have undoubtedly added to their backwardness.
This was the background to the discussions organised by Empower India Foundation during 2013 and 2014. All the reflections were centred on the idea of India – it’s past, present and future. It was generally felt by the discussants that lamenting the past 66 years is in no way a solution. Instead there should be a vision, mission and plan for the community on its way ahead for the next 33 years so that the generation at the dawn of the second century of independence enjoys a totally empowered life. But it is time the community took up the responsibility of setting the vision and mission, prepare and execute a long-term plan for empowerment: a task to be accomplished in alliance with other communities and with the support of the government. In every sense it is nation-building because India will remain crippled till all sections of its population get equally empowered.
All the different possible situations that may emerge in India during the next 33 years need to be taken into account in this exercise. Not only the national but also the global trends and developments will definitely be playing a role in shaping the destiny of Indian Muslim community. But most significantly, as Quran says the future of a community depends more on its own behavior than outside factors.
“Verily, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change themselves…” (Holy Quran 13:11)