NEW DELHI – Affected by decades of social and economic neglect, a third of Indian Muslims are suffering and struggling to survive in the Hindus-majority country, a new survey has found.
“Thriving is the highest category. This is a person who evaluates their life positively today and expects it to be positive in five years,” Dalia Mogahed, a director and senior analyst at Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre, told Emirati newspaper The National.
“Suffering is the lowest and represents someone who rates their current and future life poorly.”
A Gallup survey found that a third of Indian Muslims were suffering in the Hindus-majority country.
The poll showed that Muslim Indians were “disproportionately more likely to be poor, uneducated and live in difficult conditions, it is difficult to say for sure what explains this discrepancy”, said Mogahed.
Forty-seven percent of respondents said that it was difficult to survive on their incomes, compared with 39 percent of Hindus.
“We lost the upper-middle class,” Zikrur Rahman, the director of the India Arab Cultural Centre at Jamia Milia Islamia, said.
“These are people who would have been philanthropists, who would have run NGOs, or sponsored scholarships. They left a great void. Had there been no migration or partition, this would not have happened.”
The poll, which covered 9,500 respondents including 1,197 Muslims, also found that Muslims had larger families, with 29% having three or more children, compared with 17% of Hindus and only 7% in other religious groups.
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India and they have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life.
Muslims complain of decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.
Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.
They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India’s 1.3 million-strong military.
The survey related several anecdotal instances of discrimination against Indian Muslims.
“Muslim identity affects everyday living in a variety of ways that ranges from being unable to rent/buy a house to accessing good schools for their children,” the survey cited a 2006 government study by the Sachar Commission, led by former Delhi High Court chief justice Rajindar Sacher as saying.
The Sachar report also addressed the effect of the deteriorating living conditions on education as “an area of grave concern for the Muslim community”.
It cited an example of Muslim children, who dropped out of school to help support their family. Taimoor Khan, 22, left school at 17 to help his family survive.
Currently, he works at a street food stall in Delhi’s predominantly Muslim Old City, after arriving in the capital five years ago from Uttar Pradesh state.
“We did not have the money to keep me in school,” said Khan. “With no income, I was forced to find work.”
Being on the bottom of the government’s line of professions, Khan doubts that education would have improved his lot. “I don’t know what difference it would have made,” he said. A similar opinion is shared by many Muslims.
“Muslims do not see education as necessarily translating into formal employment,” said the Sachar report.
“The low representation of Muslims in public or private sector employment and the perception of discrimination in securing salaried jobs make them attach less importance to formal ‘secular’ education.”