By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Jobs and Education
Those Dark Days
This Isn't the Way Azhar!
Last week the chairman of a Muslim cooperative bank told me that his bank received 600 applications for the 25 clerical vacancies, even though the advertisements were designed to reach only a limited and target audience. All applicants were Muslims, 400 girls and 200 boys. Many of the girls were even postgraduates. He rued that even if the bank absorbs 40 of these job-seekers, what would the remaining 560 do.
I have two points to make. First, it gives lie to the propaganda that Muslim women are lag behind in education. Second that while education level is rising among Muslims, no such effort is being exerted to create jobs within the community.
Despite so much of media propaganda of backwardness of Muslim women, Muslim girls are seen to be doing better than boys, in terms of numbers as well as grades. Though this may be something confined to cities, the phenomenon is evident all across the country. And most Muslims live in urban areas.
The general refrain in the Muslim homes is that girls are serious, more focused and bring laurels. Muslim boys are more playful, waste vital years, and quit schools or colleges early in order to set up their own business or small scale industry. Fear of discrimination, poor felicity with the regional language and absence of training keeps them away from jobs, be they government or private. Girls keep studying and do well. Of late, South Indian cities are witnessing spurt in Muslim girls’ colleges.
Jobs are not keeping pace with the rise in educational opportunities be it for boys or girls. Muslim girls in hijab are all likely to be sent back from the private sector establishments or asked to do away with hijab.Choices are inconvenient. It is therefore imperative that Muslim educational societies now begin thinking of creating job opportunities for women too. Education, nursing, medicine, relief and rehabilitation, infotech, assembly line manufacturing establishments are more suitable for women’s employment. These jobs could very well take care of women’s biological limitations.
But the gap in educational attainments of Muslim men and women is causing serious problems on marriage front. Some years ago, Al-Ameen College in Kolar, 75 kms from Bangalore, found that it had produced 250 Muslim women graduates in the first decade of its existence while only 25 Muslim boys had graduated during this period. It is not difficult to conclude that 225 Muslim women graduates in that small town would get husbands who will not be as much educated as they themselves are. Incompatibility would be a constant threat for the marital peace and harmonious family ties.
Creating employment opportunities within the community should henceforth occupy our attention. Secondly, the special focus is needed to close the gap in male-female educational levels.
Ruminating on the past is not my preoccupation. I believe the anecdotal age is still long way off for me. But some thought must be given to the dark days of Emergency which was clamped on the unsuspecting nation on June 26, 1975.
I was a youth fresh from the college, aspiring to join a post-graduate course in journalism in the University of Madras. In between the two, I was working in a factory in Madras and devoting the commuting hours in electric train time to study history, politics and culture. Emergency came as a bolt from the blue. One of our brothers was taken as a political detenue. It caused enough psychological torpor in the family.
With press under censorship, it was not the right time to choose journalism as a career. Columnist Kuldip Nayar soon after coming out of his detention wrote a piece in Indian Express wherein he cautioned against the new occupational hazards the career in journalism had acquired. Still I did. But I found most of my classmates and students in the university were not upset by the ways Mrs. Indira Gandhi had adoped. Stories of Turkman Gate carnage, forcible sterilisations, dismissal of unfriendly state governments, Sanjay Gandhi's strong arm methods etc. had me seething with anger. I wrote a series of letters to Madras dailies. None ever got published. I wondered if my career in journalism was foredoomed. But I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief when one of the popular dailies carried a long letter of mine with all the angry outpourings within 24 hours of dispatch. It was around the time Mrs. Gandhi had announced general elections and there was much relaxation of Emergency. This enthused me and set me onto the career, never to look back.
What happened after the 1977 polls and the end of the Emergency is history. Much of Emergency's excesses were committed in the North and the South generally remained immune to extraordinariness of the period. This reflected in the poll outcome as Mrs. Gandhi's party or her allies retained their solid grip over at least three states in the South. Soon after the Emergency I visited Delhi and found that the serenity had been restored to the magnificent Jama Masjid. The squalor and chaos that marred its beauty and majesty earlier had been cleared. The situation is back to square one now. But role of Imam Abdullah Bukhari in turning the popular tide against Mrs. Gandhi too was fresh in my mind.
25 years later, I find the imprint of the dark days of Emergency indelible on my psyche. I realise that but for Emergency, I would not have learnt to value democracy. But I also wonder if we need such draconian laws, suppression of civic freedom, censorship, and authoritarian rulers to run trains on time, resettle poor folk from their shanties, return serenity to the historic sites. Cannot these be carried out with the help of the normal law? I also realise that minorities may grieve a lot during normal times, but periods like Emergency would muffle their cries totally and they will be the first target of atrocities under any authoritarian rule.
Cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin has done a disservice to the Muslims by invoking his minority tag for the kind of onslaught he is facing now, notwithstanding his apology.
Having reigned as the captain for so long and won a second stint in the first class cricket recently, Azhar should have thought twice before making that statement. Having seen his career over the last two decades, I feel there were times when he was retained captain despite the need for a change. That was merely because the atmosphere in the country was communally surcharged and a change at the top of the team would have been misconstrued.
A minority in no way promotes its cause and evokes only pity by grieving. Azhar seems to have been thoroughly misled by his media advisor in accusing his colleagues of targeting him merely because he was from a minority. Seeking the minority cover does not behove a person of Azhar's repute and stature.