The blog takes a stand for peace. It comprises my epublications on strategic affairs and peace studies issues in South Asia. Views expressed are personal. My three books Think South Asia; Subcontinental Musings and South Asia: In it Togehter, with my published commentaries can be downloaded free from the links provided. Hard copies can be ordered at no profit basis from http://cinnamonteal.in/authors/firdaus-ahmed/. @firdyahmed
11 February 2013 - A revealing, if unsurprising, observation
brings out starkly how marginalised the Muslim community is, and is set to
remain over the middle term. I happened to browse through the results of the
Class V Aryabhatta Mathematics Inter-School Competition, posted on the website
of one of the participating institutions. The competition is an annual event
which tests the mathematical skills of students in middle school.
Eighty nine schools participated, including all the elite schools of
Delhi. One school, Hamdard Public School, Sangam Vihar, fielded 10 Muslim
student participants. Of the other 880 students from 88 schools (each school
sending in 10 students of Class V), only eight had Muslim names, making a
figure of less than one per cent. All told 13 children with Muslim names
participated out of 880, making a total of two per cent. From the list of
schools, it is evident that these are the elite public schools in the national
The percentage of Muslims in Delhi is about 12 per cent. This implies
that Muslim representation has been one sixth of what it could, and perhaps
should, have been in a city-wide competition.
The refrain of late has been that a Muslim middle class is developing,
implying that Muslims are beginning to do well in the country. This does not
seem to be borne out by this stark statistic. It could have been expected that
traces of the so-called Muslim middle class would show up in such data.
However, the opposite seems to be true; the touted take off of the Muslim
community has not quite begun. Muslims remain marginalized.
It seems that only Muslim-run schools now have Muslim students. That is
a double disadvantage. For other schools, it is to deprive them of the
diversity that reflects the national composition. For Muslims, it suggests two
things. One is that their children do not manage to qualify for such schools.
But more pertinently, it is possible that the lack of exposure to Muslims in
general and Muslim children, due to underrepresentation, sets up a vicious
circle in which schools are reluctant to give Muslim children the benefit of
doubt. There could be a more sinister reason to this that regrettably must also
be included here: such schools may have an unwritten policy that keeps Muslim
What are the long term implications of this? In case the emerging Muslim
middle class is kept out, as suggested by the statistics, Muslims will continue
to be disadvantaged for some time to come. Not being represented in this cohort
of young children means that they will be underrepresented in the work force in
middle class-favoured occupations for at least a score years and more. This
means the already existing gap between Muslims and forward communities will
expand. In fact, since Muslims of the middle class are not normally covered by
reservations, they will lose out to communities in other religions that are so
favoured. Marginalisation will only deepen.
FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE www.indiatogether.org
What needs to be done?
The administration needs looking at the figures of Muslim children in
schools. A finding of 'Nil' would indicate clearly a policy that keeps them
out. Such schools must be encouraged to reform, if not penalized. 'Naming and
shaming' is one way, but unlikely to work since such schools can brazenly
resort to a communal rationale, knowing that the times are such that they will
Change is therefore easier said than done. At least one school in the
middle class locality I live in is reputed to have no Muslim children in its
rolls. This cannot be by default. It is by design, one in which the management,
staff and education department officials are culpable. Parents from my
neighbourhood are equally culpable in turning a blind eye at best and at worst
condoning and insisting on the practice.
This is not a stand-alone feature. It is linked to the well-known
nation-wide malady of Muslims not finding flats to buy or rent in 'respectable'
neighbourhoods - note use of the apostrophes here! Not living in such locales,
they don't get to send their children to either middle class or elite schools
either. This personal aside is entirely unremarkable in terms of amounting
almost to a defining feature of modern India.
The representative lists of Aryabhatta prize competitors can be perused
for other clues such as the numbers of children with upper caste names or the
absence of names that are usually found in lower castes. Allowance can be made
for Sanskritisation by way of which the Hindu majority is being rapidly
homogenized towards a telling political outcome. The picture could reveal much
more than the backwardness of India's largest minority discussed here. It would
tell about the warts on India's complexion that even as enlightened a document
as the Constitution has been unable to erase over three score years and as many
generations of Indians.
One way out could be to sensitise schools to include more children from
the marginalised peoples, without compromising merit. This will be to the
betterment in terms of well-rounded growth of their students. After all, much
learning in school is from peers. Anecdotally, it is fairly evident that having
friends and class fellows of other religious and ethnic backgrounds does make
for a secular and tolerant outlook among children. This can be done by parents'
bodies interfacing with schools and with the management to oversee the change
in the best interests of their wards.
Middle class India is a reality that has surfaced unmistakably over this
decade. Anti-corruption and a fair treatment of women have been causes that
have seen national level assertiveness from this class. One area calling out
for its attention is to make school-going a level playing field. ⊕