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Indian Muslims and higher education

January 10, 2007

Those who are against reservations for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions can hardly contain their glee at the news that Muslims are after all – not backward educationally (article). This has been brought to everyone’s notice by a former JNU demographer, Prof Mahendra Premi in his book, ‘Population of India in New Millennium: Census 2001’. His revelations apparently contradict the Sachar Committee Report on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims which says that Muslims are educationally behind the other communities. Prof. Premi says that the 2001 Census shows that Muslims (both male and female) are actually faring better educationally than their Hindu counterparts in as many as seven states.

So what is the confusion?
Well, according to Prof Premi (and based on the 2001 census data) Muslims in the seven states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are far better off than Hindus. On an average across these states 6% more Muslim men are literate as compared to Hindu men. The percentage difference ranges from 1.3% (Karnataka) to 13.7% (Chattisgarh). And the data for women is revealing. On an average across these states around 13% more Muslim women are literate as compared to their Hindu sisters. The figures range from 7.7 % (Karnataka) to 23.2% (Chattisgarh). True, the 2001 census also says that while 65.3% of Indians (both men and women) are literate, only 59.1% of Muslims are.

The reality
But if Muslims are backward educationally, it is so only in some states. Making sweeping generalisations of the kind that the Sachar committee made are misleading.

The harsher reality
The Wiki says that literacy is ‘…reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that enables one to successfully comprehend and communicate in print society.’
Are Indian literates able to do this? A website called Spincycle quotes a study by ORG-CSR (2003) conducted in rural areas of five states—Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. This study says that “Faced with a square block of Hindi text printed centered on a square piece of paper with no other graphical indicators of beginning, ending, or page orientation, as many as 37.4% literates could not hold the printed matter in the proper orientation for reading. After this was shown (or known), 42.5% could not point to the end of text. Half the sample could not move their finger to delineate the left to right direction of print and a nearly equal proportion could not move from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line immediately below.”
There’s more. “Only 37.5% could write their full name correctly, 15.1% could write it partially or with mistakes, and 47.4% could not write it at all.” Few of these ‘literates’ could read a simple bus board, and more than half could not read a newspaper or letters, leave alone write them.” !!
Many of us have experienced this in real life. A maid or a worker who is fifth standard pass is unlikely to possess the skills that literate people are supposed to possess. A driver for examply may be unable to remember simple names of roads and or decipher longer road names. Indian school drop-outs face an additional problem – poor quality municipal schools. But the government is not bothered. As long as it can ensure that a large number of children enroll in school it’s goals can be met. Never mind if the kids drop out later on…it will not affect the statistics.

Higher education is important
So what am I trying to say? Firstly, that ‘literacy’ figures are misleading and do not reflect the state of our nation. Perhaps the figures available for higher education are more telling. According to the Milligazette, an Indian Muslim newspaper, only one out of 25 under-graduate students and one out of 50 post-graduate students is a Muslim in premier Indian colleges. Considering that Muslims in India make up 13.4% (BBC article) of the total population, these figures are very low. This is the real reality check.

Update: (Nov 08] An article quoting the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 1990-2000 and 2004-05 has shown that Muslims have a problem being recruited even if they are educated. trends of employment still show much lower opportunities, even for educated Muslims. These are just trends which need to be confirmed but it seems to show that in rural areas 7 percent of Hindu graduates were unemployed, but as many as 15 percent of Muslims were, which is more than double. In urban areas the figures were 5 percent and 10 percent. The unemployment rate gap was far less amongst those who were less educated. For example those who had studied till school level, 9 percent of Hindus were unemployment and 14 percent Muslims. In Urband areas the there was no difference at all, with both communities facing unemployment of 7 percent each. For Post graduate level also the difference/gap was far less, with the rate of unemployment for Hindus being 4 percent and 6 percent of Muslims – in rural areas. In urban areas the gap was that of onl one percentage point…4 percent for Muslims and 5 percent of Hindus.
There was a gap in employment rates of Diploma holders as well, with 7 percent of Hindus in rural areas being unemployed, but as many as 11 percent of Muslims. In urban areas too there was a gap, with 5 percent of Hindus being unemployed as compared to 8 percent Muslims.

Related Reading: India has two of the best design schools in the world
Will educated Indians return home in great numbers?
Graduate quality worries the IT industry
High salaries for only for the educated elite?
Unequal Education

More: Busting the IQ test myth
What makes children succeed in school
The connection between emotional intelligence and academic performance

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2007 6:55 pm

    MiM MP Asaduddin Owaisi On Sachar Committee Report and Reservation in Parliament

    ASADUDDIN OWAISI MP (HYDERABAD) : Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I rise to support the Bill that has been tabled in the august House. I have got some important points to bring to the notice of the august House.
    The Sachar Committee report has been tabled in this House. It clearly states the educational backwardness of the Muslim community. According to Sachar Report, there are 39 per cent OBCs and 0.8 per cent Scheduled Caste in the Muslim community.
    I support this Bill which provides reservation in Central Universities to SCs, STs and OBCs. However, I would like to know as to how fair it is to deny the benefits of reservation on the basis of religion, especially after the Government has tabled the Sachar Report in this august House which shows how bad my educational standards are and my conditions are.
    I would just like to quote one point here as far as the report is concerned. Page 73 of Sachar Report clearly says, “The percentage of population of graduates, as far as the Muslims are concerned, is 1.2 and those attending P.G. courses is 16.3.” It is lesser in Muslims than in dalits also. You are not implementing these minority universities over there. But why is it that I am being denied such benefits? Moreover, the Presidential Order of 1950 contravenes the basic fundamental rights given in the Constitution.
    How is it that only SCs belonging or professing the religion of Hinduism or Sikhism or neo Buddhism are being given reservation? Why not Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims? This question has to be pondered over by the Government. I would request you sincerely, Sir, that the Government should come forward and ensure that the 1950 Presidential Order, Schedule III is amended. It says that only a person professing Hinduism or Sikhism or neo Buddhism can be classified as Schedule Caste. How is that possible? This Report of yours clearly says this. There is this argument about Muslims and OBCs. Why is it such a low percentage is there? This has to be looked into.
    Lastly, about Jamia Milia University, how is that the present Vice-Chancellor wants to implement this present Bill in Jamia Milia University? Why has the Vice-Chancellor overnight changed this position? Why are we being denied such benefits? I would request you that this issue has to be taken care of. They have applied to the National Minority Education Commission also. It is pending over there. If Jamia Milia University is not a minority University, then, which is a minority university? This is a very important question. These are important points I wanted to bring to the notice of the august House.
    I support this Bill. I hope that this UPA Government will take affirmative action and will not deny us reservation under Article 16(4). If people are opposed to reservations to Muslims, they should look into the pre-native history of Article 16(4). It is none other than Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who has stated `classes’ means `Minorities’. He was the Chairman of that Advisory Committee. Why are Muslims having reservations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka? Why can they not be given reservations nationwide? It has to be done. Literacy rate of 13 per cent of population is only 59. There is a huge difference between literate and educated persons. You can very well imagine 13 per cent of population with a literacy of 59 per cent. Hence, I would request that the Government should come forward with the proposal and I hope that the hon. Minister, when he stands up to reply would respond to this or this UPA Government has to amend 1950 Presidential Order. They have to take affirmative action under Articles 15(4) and 16(4).
    Thank you.

  2. shivkumar israni permalink
    January 23, 2007 4:59 pm

    My Sindhi community was one of the major victims of Partition. Many of us who belonged to Zamindar or otherwise wealthy families found ourselves in refugee camps having lost not only our property but also our near and dear ones.
    In the early years after independence all sorts of names were given to my community, but we never reacted in a negative manner. Inspite of our consistent demand for a State for Sindhi and their political empowerment, Sindhi have been denied the same.
    I still vividly remember the attacks of Shiv Sena on Sindhi community in Mumbai in the year 1969.
    Notwithstanding all the problems, Sindhis did not keep on only complaining. Sindhis worked day and night, handled all sorts of jobs, integrate themselves to thelocal community and went on rebuilding their lives.
    Inspite of the fact that Sindhis are relatively small in numbers, they have made impact in several different fields including education, medicine and law.
    Education and Enterprise, yes these are the two golden words that need to be practiced. Large number of Sindhis went for Education while majority became Entrepreneurs i.e. self supporting.
    Your destiny is in your own hands. Crying and cribbing and listening to some useless and selfish leaders will take u nowhere. Be your own leaders and decide your future, then no power on earth, be it any political party or group can stop your progress.
    So take future in your hands and get the desired results. Yes, be prepared for donkey’s work but in the end, results will be sweet. Yes, be prepared for some insults on the way.
    But awake and arise and do your duty.

  3. December 11, 2007 5:53 pm

    Gender discrimination is also main reason for low rate of literacy in muslims. Pro-Taliban islamic insurgents are blasting girls schools in Pakistan. Taliban regime banned female education when they were in power. Though, Taliban government was overthrown by American and British imperialists, girls who attend schools are very less in Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan women didn’t remove burqas even after the fall of Taliban regime. Rich and higher middle class muslims send their girls to schools and colleges because education is also matter of social status for them. Illiterate girls and school dropout girls are mostly seen in poor and lower middle class muslim families.

  4. December 11, 2007 7:55 pm

    @Proletarian Revolutionary:

    The census shows that more Hindu women are illiterate as compared to Muslim women. As I said in my post:

    On an average across these states around 13% more Muslim women are literate as compared to their Hindu sisters.

  5. Rashid permalink
    December 21, 2007 2:32 am


    The Conditions of Muslims in India is getting from bad to worst.

    1) The main reason for this is lack of education.

    2)Our ulema are stopping us from education . Well how ?

    a) In Couple of Bangalore Mosque , I have heard our Maulvies saying in Friday sermon that our community is getting spoilt because Muslims are sending there children’s to school. So the Impact , my friend removed his children from prestigious convent school and has put them in Madrasa.

    b)We are discouraged from joining companies like TCS, Infosys ,IBM , Accenture etc because these companies do US and Europe Projects.

    c)When saddam is hanged our Ulemas force us to be on streets protesting because some local politician has asked them to do so. How many processions had Saddam taken out for worst conditions of Indian Muslims ?

    d)In my life I have never come across a situation were Ulemas have taken out procession for Better roads, Better education and Better sanitation.

    e)Only when elections are near by we see our Ulemas speaking about Government policies. And they go into hibernation till next elections.

    f)We don’t have a single Tv channel dedicated for this community . When there was a conference in Bangalore to launch a TV channel for Muslims , Our Ulema said that watching TV is haram .So No Channel for Muslims? Well do other Muslim countries don’t have there own TV channels.

    g)When a Hindu is born his parents dream that one day he would be a Doctor , Engineer or IAS officer . When Muslim is born in India his parents dream that one day he would become a Auto driver or Open his own Tea Stall or have a Road side Kabab stall.

    h)I have hardly come across Muslim entrepreneurs , Educated Muslim Politicians or Educated Ulemas.

    e)When Danish cartoon was published , our leaders gave a bounty of 51 cores , Hello can his money be used to provide better education for Muslims ……

    Please remember 83% of muslims are below poverty line in India . Thanks to our Ulema .

    Modern Education must start from walls of Darululoom-Deoband or Muslims will face much worst scenarios in days to come.

  6. December 21, 2007 7:21 am


    Wow, what a pragmatic and honest comment. Your community needs you! You need to spread awareness about this, speak to people, and convince them. Because as you know politicians (ulemas fall in this category according to me because they consistently take political stances), whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, prefer the people to be uneducated so they become easier to manipulate. Nothing frightens a politician more than an aware, enlightened electorate.

  7. Inamdar shsikhshanmohamed babubhai permalink
    September 3, 2008 2:21 am

    sir the presidential order1950 para 3 shall be scrapped and SC status may be provided dalit muslim.


  8. INAMDAR SHAIKHSHANMOHAMED BABUBHAI ohamed babubhai permalink
    September 11, 2008 1:23 am


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