April 4, 2012

Five deprivation points for Muslim students: A step towards further democratization of JNU

“[The Muslims] carry a double burden of being labeled as ‘anti-national’ and as being ‘appeased’ at the same time. While Muslims need to prove on a daily basis that they are not ‘anti-national’ and ‘terrorists’, it is not recognized that the alleged ‘appeasement’ has not resulted in the desired level of socio-economic development of the community"                         – Sachar Committee Report 

Before the last Academic Council meeting, DSU raised the demand of expanding the Progressive Admission Policy and provide five deprivation points to the Muslim students at the time of their admission. We make this demand based on concrete analysis of the status of Muslim students in higher education in the country in general as well as in JNU in particular. The abysmally low representation of Muslims in higher education is a result of overall systemic exploitation, deprivation and persecution of Muslims because of their religious identity and belief. This has impeded the growth and development of Muslim community which is reflected in their gross under-representation in both education and employment.

Ever since the transfer of power in 1947, the Indian state has upheld Hindu-fundamentalism and brahminism. The oppressed sections including the Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims have been used as ‘vote banks’ by all parliamentary parties irrespective of differences in their professed ideologies or the colour of their flags. Their rhetoric notwithstanding, the range of parliamentary parties from Congress/ BJP to CPM and other pseudo-left organisations have repeatedly delivered lip-service to the oppressed, though couched in different words. The imperialist onslaught with unabated support from all parliamentary parties has reduced the living condition of these sections to a subhuman level. And this reflects glaringly in education that has remained a fiefdom of the dominant Hindu brahmanical forces. Although primary education is recognized as a fundamental right as per article 21 of Indian constitution, precious little has been done by the Indian state to implement the same. The reality of the underdevelopment of Muslims was glaringly reported in the Sachar Committee report that came out in 2006.

The Sachar Committee report is a detailed analysis of the condition of Muslims in various states across the country, and has revealed the true state of Muslims in the country. Quoted herein are just a few important findings and observations of the committee.

·                     The relative share for Muslims in education and employment is lower than even the Dalits in some instances who are victims of a long standing caste system. (p. 50)
·                     The literacy rate among Muslims in 2001 was 59.1 %. This is far below the all-India average (65.1 %). (p.52)
·                     As many as 25 per cent of Muslim children in the 6-14 year age group have either never attended school or have dropped out. (p.55)
·                     While 26% of those 17 years and above in the country have completed matriculation, this percentage is only 17% amongst Muslims. (p.60)
·                     Based on four years of data, on an average about 62% of the eligible children in the ‘upper’-caste Hindu and other religious groups (excluding Muslims) are likely to complete primary education followed by Muslims (44 %), SCs (39%) and STs (32%). (p.62)
·                     According to the cencus data, while about 7% of the population aged 20 years or above are graduates or hold diplomas, this proportion is less than 4% among Muslims. Besides, those having technical education at the appropriate ages, (18 years and above), are as low as one per cent among Muslims. (p.64)
·                     The all-India trend of increasing disparities in Graduation Acquiring Rate between Muslims and ‘All Others’ is found to be prevalent in all states. In urban areas, Muslims are falling behind not only vis-à-vis ‘All Others’, but also Dalits and Adivasis in several states. This trend can be observed among both Muslim males and females.  (p.68)
·                     Among the premier colleges of India, one out of twenty five students enrolled in Under Graduate (UG) courses and only one out of every fifty students in Post-Graduate (PG) courses is a Muslim. (p.69)
·                     In Post-graduate colleges it was found that only about one out of twenty students is a Muslim. This is significantly below the share of OBCs (24%) and SCs/STs (13%). (p.71)
·                     A comparison of the probability estimates for completion of higher secondary and graduation suggests that Muslims are at a much larger disadvantage at the higher secondary level. This presumably results in a much lower size of Muslim population eligible for higher education. (p.75)
The report also delves into the issue of willful negligence of government schools, especially the Urdu medium schools, which are attended by a large number of Muslim students. It also contrasts the approach and importance attached to Sanskrit from that of Urdu by the various state governments, clearly reflecting the Hindu/Brahmanical nature of the state.

Justice Ranganath Mishra Committee has also made several recommendations. One of the most progressive recommendations made by this committee is the provision of 15% separate reservation for religious minorities, of which 10% to be earmarked for Muslims. This recommendation is yet to be taken up or given due seriousness by the Indian state. What the UPA did instead as a poll gimmick was to include 4.5% reservation for religious minorities within OBC reservation, which was opposed by both Muslims and the OBCs. Implementation of the separate 10% reservation for Muslims is one of the biggest challenges for all progressive and democratic forces who stand by social justice.

Muslims are one of the most persecuted and deprived communities in the country. Within the Muslim community, the conditions of the pasmanda or oppressed-caste Muslims are even worse. Nevertheless, both Sachar Committee and Ranganath Committee have highlighted the deprivation of the entire Muslim community irrespective of the internal caste and class stratification. A recent survey has shown how the numbers of Muslim students in nursery schools are minimal in the non-Muslim areas of Delhi. Coupled with this is the regular ghettoisation and consistent witch-hunt of all Muslims in the name of fighting US-Israel dictated ‘war on terror’. This has pushed the Muslims into a life of insecurity, discrimination and intimidation. The concentrations of Muslims are deliberately made in certain earmarked section of every city, turning those sections to literal ghettos. All sorts of profiling and stereotyping of the community are furnished once they are hurdled up in ghettos. The profiling of the Muslims has contributed greatly in the persecution and deliberate deprivation of the Muslims from access to education, jobs and resources.

For the Indian state and all the parliamentary parties, Muslims have only two identities. They are either vote-banks or ‘terrorists’. The incidents of regular targeting of Muslims as ‘terrorists’ are on the rise, especially that of Muslim youths. Sachar Committee Report also notes that the maximum concentration in various Indian prisons is that of Muslims. Thousands of Muslim youths are regularly targeted, hounded up and arrested by the Indian state on fabricated charges under the UAPA, NSA and other draconian laws. Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was banned without an iota of concrete evidences by the NDA government. The UPA government further extended the ban even after a tribunal lifted the ban for lack of evidence. Hundreds of SIMI activists were harassed, arrested and tortured. In the past five years the targeting are taking place in the name of ‘Indian Mujahidin’, a non-existent organisation propped up by intelligence agencies. Hundreds of Muslims, arrested as IM ‘masterminds’, are in jail currently in connection to various bomb blasts, even after it has been revealed that the sangh-parivar are behind the attack. Just two days back, there had been one more case of rounding up of two young Muslims in Delhi for allegedly being part of Indian Mujahidin. Whenever the ruling parties fail to exploit the Muslims as ‘vote banks’, they are conveniently branded as terrorists. The so called pseudo-left too are no exception. We have seen how during the Nandigram struggle, the same Muslims who used to be considered as loyal supporters of CPM were branded as “Islamic terrorists” by the CPM government once they led the anti-land grab movement from the forefront.

In JNU, the overall representation of Muslim students is very low if one looks at the center-wise distribution. Muslim students are concentrated mainly in the centers for Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages, where they number 52%. But excluding these centers, the total number of Muslim students in the rest of the centers comes approximately to a mere 7.7% (as per the voters’ list made available by the last JNUSU Election Committee). In SSS, the percentage of Muslim students is approximately 8.5%; in SIS, it is approximately 6.8%; in the Science Schools, the integrated total comes around 8.6%; in School of Arts and Aesthetics, it is a mere 4.2%. In SLL&CS, excluding the aforementioned centers, the strength of Muslim students is a mere 7.4%.

It is the progressive and democratic students’ movement in JNU that has forced the administration to implement policies of social justice in the campus. As a part of the larger struggle for Muslim reservations in education and employment, we must fight for the implementation of Ranganath Mishra Committee’s recommendation of 10% separate Muslim reservation. This is a protracted struggle, and till it is put in place, DSU demands that JNU administration must address the educational and social discrimination of Muslims at campus level by providing 5 deprivation points to all Muslim students. AISA-led JNUSU needs to wake up from its slumber on this pressing issue and make this a part of its charter of demands. This is an important step towards making education and research in JNU more democratic and socially responsible. 

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