New Delhi: Shiksha Samvad ’23, an effort that launched on June 20, stated that there is an urgent need for government action to stop the decline in the enrollment of Muslims in higher education institutions considering the recently released All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020–21. It also demanded that the government set up an inquiry into the causes that led to the steepest dropout rate of Muslim students in higher education.
Additionally, the government needs to move quickly to set up universities in minority-concentrated districts (MCDs), like Kishanganj in Bihar and Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh.
The goal of the Shiksha Samvad is to eliminate inequities and promote equal opportunities in the sphere of education. The Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) and the Centre for Educational Research and Training (CERT) jointly launched it.
In addition, it demanded that anti-discrimination policies in educational institutions be strictly enforced, that the saffronization of education be prevented, and that successful enrollment-boosting method be put in place for the Muslim population.
It blamed Islamophobia and growing insecurity among minorities as the major reasons behind the sharpest decline in enrollment of Muslim students.
The survey made the startling revelation that the enrollment of Muslim students dropped by 8 percent from 2019–20, that is, by 1,79,147 students, which is an unprecedented decline and has never happened in the recent past for any group in India.
Briefing the media about the steep decline of Muslim students in enrollment in higher education at the Press Club of India, SIO and CERT office-bearers said the Shiksha Samvad ’23 programme aimed to address the declining enrollment rate of Muslims and bridge the gap through this initiative.
Noted social scientist and JUN Professor Nivedita Menon said the survey report contains deeply disturbing information that revealed that enrollment rates have increased in other socio-religious groups, but the Muslim group’s rate of enrollment has fallen to 8 percent. Prof. Menon attributed the Muslim enrollment downturn to the policies and actions of the Union government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The JUN Professor underlined that “Education, as a transformative process that fosters rational thinking and unlocks opportunities, should be accessible to all individuals. However, the recent AISHE Survey 2020–21 has exposed a disheartening reality. While the enrollment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes in higher education has shown improvement at 4.2%, 11.9%, and 4%, respectively, the enrollment of Muslim students has witnessed an alarming 8% drop, equivalent to approximately 180,000 students, compared to the previous year,”
It cannot be coincidence and cannot be seen in isolation; it is the success of the “Hindu supremacist state,” which wants to make Muslims second-class citizens, she said while recalling the CAA and NRC and other actions (such as banning hijab in educational institutions, unilateral abrogation of Article 370) of the Modi regime.
She also mentioned that the previous UPA government had passed the Equal Opportunities Commission Bill, but it has never seen the light of day.
She also emphasized the underlying causes of this concerning decline, stating, “The biased labour market, as revealed by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy report, reflects discriminatory practices that result in lower employment rates among Muslims. Furthermore, the increasing violence faced by the community has severely restricted their mobility, leading to a process of ghettoization, hindering their access to quality education.”
Prof. Menon praised the SIO for starting the Shiksha Samvad but added that the country’s ongoing climate of violence and intimidation was also a factor in the historically low enrollment of Muslim students.
Similar worries were expressed by Fawaz Shaheen, a researcher affiliated with the Quill Foundation, who claimed that the country had become more Islamophobic as a result. This, he claimed, has caused the Muslim population to feel more insecure.
He invoked the Tablighi Jamaat incident during the COVID-19 outbreak and attacks on Jamia Millia Islamia students as evidence for his claim that the entire community was being targeted.
Shaheen also highlighted that the findings of the AISHE survey showed that Muslim teachers are underrepresented in higher education institutions, which further exacerbates the problem.
“While teachers from the General Category comprise 56% of the total, OBC, SC, and ST teachers account for 32%, 9%, and 2.5%, respectively, with only 5.6% representing the Muslim community. Gender disparity is also evident, with 75 women teachers for every 100 male teachers, whereas female representation among Muslim teachers stands at only 59 women per 100 male Muslim teachers. Non-teaching staff also exhibit significant gender imbalances, with the Muslim community having the lowest female-to-male ratio at 34 females per 100 males,” the young researcher explained.
In his address, Dr. Roshan Mohiddin, Director of CERT, said Shiksha Samvad has undertaken a wide range of activities to overcome these educational gaps, according to
“From round table meets and career guidance programmes to skill development workshops, scholarship assistance, and mentorship programmes, the event strives to create a supportive ecosystem that empowers students and bridges the existing gaps.”
According to the AISHE survey, UP accounts for 36 percent of that total decline followed by Jammu and Kashmir, which accounts for 26 percent, then Maharashtra (8.5 percent), Tamil Nadu (8.1 percent), Gujarat (6.1 percent), Bihar (5.7 percent) and Karnataka (3.7 percent).
Smaller states exhibit similar trends, however, the states with the highest proportion of Muslims account for the majority of the reduction. For instance, Delhi lost roughly 20% of its Muslim students between 2019–20 and 2020–21, while J&K lost nearly 36%.
The PLFS data supports this tendency if we narrow our focus to the age range of 18 to 23. Muslims perform worse than Adivasis and Dalits. This source claims that just roughly 19 percent of the population is currently enrolled in higher education, compared to 21 percent of Adivasis, 26 percent of Dalits, 34 percent of Hindu OBCs, and 45 percent of Hindu upper castes.
The only states where Muslims performed better than Dalits in 2020–21 were Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Delhi. In numerous places, including Rajasthan, Assam, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, Adivasis fare better than Muslims.
In light of these findings, we have presented five key demands that must be fulfilled right away, Dr. Roshan Mohiddin said.
First, the restoration of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship ( MANF) that was abolished on a false pretext, an inquiry into the declining enrollment rate of Muslims, and the establishment of universities in Minority Concentrated Districts (MCDs) such as Kishanganj, Sambhal, etc.
Furthermore, strict enforcement of anti-discrimination measures in educational institutions, Prevention of the saffronization of education, and implementation of effective strategies to promote enrollment rates among the Muslim community.
Roshan said the government should address these demands immediately in order to arrest the decline of the Muslim ratio in higher education.
Abdullah Faiz, National Secretary of SIO, emphasized the urgent need for prompt action by drawing attention to the Sachar Committee Report, which was presented in 2006 and highlighted the educational status of Muslims as being comparable to, if not worse than, that of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities.
According to him, “The current dropout rate of Muslim students stands at 23.1%, surpassing the national average, necessitating focused policies and programmes to uplift and support Muslim students in their pursuit of higher education.”
It should be a matter of deep concern to the government as it would impact not only the Muslim community but also the whole country, he stated.