Prime Ministerâ€™s High Level Committee Cabinet Secretariat Government of India
The Indian Constitution is committed to the equality of citizens and the responsibility of the State to preserve, protect and assure the rights of minorities in matters of language, religion and culture. That is why our national leaders while framing the Constitution, emphasized the doctrine of unity in diversity. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities says that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to such minorities contribute to the political and social stability of the countries in which they live. Meeting their aspirations and ensuring their rights acknowledges the dignity and equality of all individuals and furthers participatory development. This in turn contributes to the lessening of tensions among groups and individuals. These factors are major determinants for stability and peace. All developed countries and most developing ones give appropriate emphasis to looking after the interests of minorities. Thus, in any country, the faith and confidence of the minorities in the functioning of the State in an impartial manner is an acid test of its being a just State. As the processes of economic development unfold, pressures are likely to build up and intensify when there is unequal development and some groups or minorities lag behind in the development process. Ideally, development processes should remove or reduce economic and social obstacles to cooperation and mutual respect among all groups in the country. If development processes are misdirected, they may have the opposite effect. It is this aspect which is important and needs to be addressed so as to give confidence to minorities. Since Independence, India has achieved significant growth and development. It as also been successful in reducing poverty and improving crucial human development indicators such as levels of literacy, education and health. There are indications, however, that not all religious communities and social groups (henceforth socio-religious communities SRCs) have shared equally the benefits of the growth process. Among these, the Muslims, the largest minority community in the country, constituting 13.4 per cent of the population, are seriously lagging behind in terms of most of the human development indicators. While the perception of deprivation is widespread among Muslims, there has been no systematic effort since Independence to analyze the condition of religious minorities in the country. Despite the need to analyze the socio-economic and educational conditions of different SRCs, until recently appropriate data for such an analysis was not generated by Government agencies. There have been welcome change in the scope of data collection with respect to SRCs in the 1990s, which, in turn, has made this report possible. The current effort is the first of its kind to undertake a data-based research on the Muslims in India.