Reveals Muslims face systematic discrimination in all welfare schemes
New Delhi: Contrary to what the federal and state governments claim, Muslims in India trail behind in every measure of progress. A thorough social audit assessment of 10 Muslim-dominated districts in Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, and UP has confirmed this fact. On April 15, the research findings were presented at the Press Club of India in front of a large crowd of journalists, campaigners, and public intellectuals.
The audit report, titled ‘Marginalization of Muslims in Ten Minority Concentration Districts: Bringing the Equity Question Back Into the Political Discourse’, highlights the socioeconomic challenges faced by minorities in these districts and challenges the narrative around the alleged “rise of radical Islam” in border areas of India.
The audit focused on ten districts that have a significant Muslim population of approximately 14.1 million, representing 52% of the district’s overall population.
The report was authored by researchers Dr. Sajid Ali and Dr. Bano Jyotsna under the auspices of the SPECT Foundation.
Prashant Tandon, a senior journalist, underlined the significance and applicability of such fact-finding research by stating that Muslims are one of India’s most persecuted social groups and that their persecution is related to their systematic exclusion from government development programmes. “As a result, studies like this one are important for measuring prejudice against Muslims. All relevant parties will be made aware of this documentation, which, with any luck, will open the door for corrective action.
In his observations on the report, Dr. Apoorvanand, a well-known activist and professor at Delhi University said at every level there is systematic prejudice against Muslims. Citing a provision of the legislation that makes triple talaq a crime, he called it a blatantly discriminatory rule.
He claimed that the government prefers to portray its programmes as serving all groups and being community-neutral. Apoorvanand cited Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraraman’s recent remarks made on foreign soil, in which she said that Muslims are content in India because of its growing Muslim population.
According to Dr. Bano Jyotsna, one of the report’s authors, the Sachar Committee report’s exposure to Muslim discrimination was a turning point in the study of underprivileged societies. According to the Sachar Committee report, Muslims experience targeted biases in all major indices, including those related to employment, businesses, health, and education. Amitabh Kundu Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations that offered action-based solutions to elevate underprivileged Muslims in 90 districts where Muslims made up at least 30% of the population were made in response to this report. Sadly, they remained only ideas. We looked at 10 of the 90 districts that the Sachar Committee selected,” she stated. The SPECT study, she continued, is the first in a series of reports that will further expose the marginalisation of Muslims.
The districts on which the report focused are Araria, Purnea, Kishanganj, Katihar (Bihar), Dhubri, Kokrajhar (Assam), Malda, Murshidabad (West Bengal), and Shravasti and Balrampur (UP), according to Dr. Sajid Ali, another author of the paper. According to him, there are about 1.4 crore Muslims in these districts, or 5% of all Muslims in India.
Furthermore, he emphasized that the selection of these districts had been influenced by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) targeting of them for a number of reasons, such as allegations of population increase and “illegal infiltration” from neighbouring countries.
“Our modus operandi was to pit the state aggregate of government scheme benefits vis a vis these districts. We collected data even on block and tehsil levels to know the ground situation. We found that Muslims have experienced discrimination in areas including employment, education, and housing. Many encounter barriers to achieving political power and wealth and lack access to health care and basic services. Moreover, they often struggle to secure justice after suffering discrimination, despite constitutional protections,” Dr Ali stated. Despite residing in extreme depravity, he maintained, Muslims encounter discrimination from fellow Hindus and law enforcement authorities, including the police, and it is rumoured that their numbers are growing every year.
He claimed that the report dispels the misconception that Muslims, particularly pasmandas (backward) Muslims, received a proportionate share in the Pradhanmantri Awas Yojana. Muslims only received 31% of the allotments in one district but made up 48% of the population. The figure was lower in other districts, he noted.
The research emphasizes the lack of infrastructure and facilities in all the neighbourhoods with a large concentration of Muslims.
According to the audit report, the Muslim population in the ten selected districts has been deprived of basic resources and amenities more than other regions of the country, indicating a lack of preferential treatment or “appeasement” of Muslims. This data challenges the prevailing narrative that Muslims receive favorable treatment and opportunities over other communities.
The report highlighted the poor socioeconomic conditions in four districts of Bihar. These districts had lower literacy rates than the state average, and the student-teacher ratio in schools was also significantly higher than the state average, indicating inadequate educational infrastructure. The report also exposed systematic discrimination against minorities in the distribution of government schemes. Despite a significant low-income population, only 31.20% of the beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana (PMGAY) in these districts were Muslims, which is 17.5% less than the Muslim population’s total average. The report also revealed that there was a higher demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in these districts than the state average between 2014-15 and 2020-21. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the already dire situation.
The report discredits the myth of population explosion among Muslims in two districts of Uttar Pradesh. In Shravasti, the decadal population growth (DPG) was -5.02% between 2001-11, representing a decline of 32.23% from the previous decade. In Balrampur, the DPG increased marginally compared to other districts. The literacy levels in both districts are lower than the state average, with Balrampur at 49.51% and Shravasti at 37.89%, compared to the state average of 57.25%.
The NFHS-5 data further reveals that only 16.8% of women in Balrampur have completed ten or more years of schooling, while the state average is 39.3%. Shravasti also has poor health infrastructure, ranking as the poorest district in Uttar Pradesh.
The report reveals that the situation is similar in the two districts of Assam included in the audit. Kokrajhar has witnessed a decline in the number of functional lower primary schools, while Dhubri and Kokrajhar both have poor infrastructure and health outcomes. In the West Bengal districts of Malda and Murshidabad, where Muslims make up 51% and 66% of the population, respectively, the BJP has targeted the rising population due to infiltration from Bangladesh. However, the report indicates that the decadal population growth in both districts was negative, discrediting the BJP’s propaganda. The report also highlights the poor state of education and health infrastructure in these districts.
In addition, the report criticized secular parties for giving in to the “appeasement” narrative created by the BJP, which is motivated and prejudiced. As a result, these parties often avoid addressing the problems related to the marginalization of Muslims.
Professors S. Irfan Habib, Nandini Sundar, and Dalit campaigner Anil Chamadia also spoke at the event and supported the study. They emphasized how it exposes the federal and state governments, which seem to uphold secularism but engage in communalism when it comes to empowering Muslims.
A nonprofit organization called the SPECT Foundation carried out a development audit in ten districts to highlight the economic status of Muslims under the Modi government, which has as its catchphrase “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas.” The tagline appears to be nothing more than eyewash, though.