Exposing the Myth of ‘MUSLIM BACKWARDNESS’ in Kerala

published on May 11, 2008

Kerala Muslims are not backward

By Dr C.I. Issac

The Sachar Committee report incontrovertibly accepts that
the Kerala Muslims are much different from the rest of the Muslims of India. It
is true in Kerala several Hindu jatis (castes) are far behind the Muslims. The
socio-economic condition of some of the forward Hindu (savarna) jatis, which
were accounted as frontward during the Independence
time is too pathetic. That political parties came to power since the inception
of this State is very particular to impoverish the forward Hindu jatis through
various popular measures. Several of the Hindu jatis, whether they are forward
or backward, lost the battle because of lack of numerical strength as well as
lapse of functioning as vote banks. The best example is the Hindu Vanvasis who
are struggling for a piece of land. It is true in India several Hindu castes are in
front of Muslims in the case of poverty and socio-economic backwardness. But
these are not accounted for by the Sachar Committee.

In the line of UPA government at Centre, LDF government in Kerala appointed
another Committee under one of its ministers Paloli Muhammed Kutty to woo
Muslim votes in the coming elections. The committee included some known Muslim
nepotists as its members. The committee’s most shameful recommendation was
the formation of exclusive Muslim colonies. Through this suicidal
recommendation the committee is justifying the growing social segregation
syndrome, the latest social phenomena, of the Muslim community of Kerala.

The mainstream communist parties of Kerala after the collapse of Soviet Union
and the dramatic changes in China
are eager to woo minorities and the bourgeoisie. Therefore, the ongoing
administration in Kerala is functioning basically as anti-Hindu and

On the basis of the above milieu, it is genuine to make an enquiry in the
socio-economic and political condition of the Kerala Muslims with the available


 The first question
is, on which parameters the well-being of a community should be assessed?


 Whether it is on
the basis of a community’s share in the scarce government jobs or not?


 The share in the
government jobs, which falls below one per cent of the total population, is the
yardstick to measure the social status of a community?


If the government job is the lone unit of social
development, most of the developed countries populations are to be included in
the list of backwards. So, it is not so.


Another question comes before this enquiry is


 whether the other
sources of income and the educational institutions under the ownership of the
community should be accounted while evaluating their social standards or not?


 Further one is,
whether non-monetary units could be considered while measuring the social
status of a community?


If all these questions were considered by Paloli
Committee in its efforts of enquiry on the Muslim backwardness the picture will
be a different one.

Let us examine the specific situation of


The Chief Minister had informed the Legislative Assembly of
Kerala during March 2005 that government had 4,86,131 employees. Then government
is disbursing Rs.488.35 crores as salary on every month (Malayalam Manorama,
daily, Kottayam, dated March 19, 2005).


It is the greatest paradox that aided school and college
teachers form the part of government employees of Kerala. Of the total government
employees 1,66,119 are aided school teachers (See Keralam 2000, State Language
Institute, Trivandrum, pp 908, 909).


Similarly out of the 290 Arts and ScienceColleges,
148 are aided and 104 are un-aided colleges. The government has only 38
colleges. (Economic Review 2004, State Planning Board).


The benefits of the government colleges are open to all
irrespective of religious differences.


Ninety percent of the aided educational institutions of
Kerala are owned by minority religious groups. The total strength of college
lecturers as on 1999 was 14,000 (from 1999 government banned the appointment).


Out of the 14,000 college lecturers 10,620 are hailing
from minority communities. The minority colleges had retaining 5,310 as
non-teaching staff, which are in the muster rolls of the state exchequer.

If one deducts the employees of the aided educational institutions, the exact
number of employees whose appointment was made through PSC will be 3,04,082.

The present riddle begins with the argument that 24.7 per cent of the Muslims
satisfying with 11.4 per cent (according to the study—Kerala Padanam p
71—published in 2006 by Marxist Party organ Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad)
government jobs. The originators of this enigma ignoring the fact that 37.5
per cent (1,82,049) of the government employees form the part of the aided
educational institutions and 90 per cent of which are under the minority
community management.


If one deducts the number of the aided school and college
employees, then the Muslim share in the government service will shoot up to
18.22 per cent.
So, the Muslim shortage in the service is 6.48 per cent by
ignoring the fact that the Muslim community is one of the chief beneficiaries
of aided educational institutions.

As far as the religious minorities of Kerala are
concerned the government jobs are the least attractive in monetary terms. Let
us enquire into the representation in their chief priority areas like overseas
job, business, trade, agriculture, etc.

Why the cent per cent literate state like
Kerala fielded such small number of Muslims to government jobs?


The salary of a school teacher in the state service is Rs.
6,269, a Lower Division Clerk is Rs. 6,089 (Kerala Padanam, p 65). Similarly, a
last grade employee in the state service is drawing Rs. 4,300. On the other
hand a Muslim employed abroad sending Rs. 6,709 per month to his house.
Similarly, a Hindu who got employment abroad is sending only Rs. 4,522 to his
family and a member hailing from SC community’s share is Rs. 3,066 (Kerala Padanam,
p 52). It is natural that the more employment opportunities and better
salary along with schmaltziness made Gulf Countries first in the priority to
the Muslims of Kerala
. But at the same time to the Hindus including SCs the
job in the state service is in monetary terms better than the Gulf and
obviously their first priority would be the same.

As per 2001 census, Kerala has 22,58,000 Muslim households. Of this 34.3 per
cent (7,73,465 families) Muslim households have gulf employed members (Kerala
Padanam, p. 52). On the other hand 52,58,631 Hindu households have only 10.4
per cent (5,46,897) overseas employment. In short, in the entire Muslim
households of Kerala 1/3rd have a member with overseas employment


Similarly the dalit and Vanvasi community’s share in the
overseas employment is very negligible as compared to other communities.
(Kerala Padanam, p. 50). Of the 8,51,475 ST households only 3.3 per cent have
the overseas fortune. According to CDS study in 2004 there were about 18.4 lakh
Malayalees secure jobs abroad (Study by K.C. Zachria & S. Irudayarajan
sponsored by CDS Trivandrum. See The New Indian Express, Kochi, dated July 16, 2004). Now its number
is more. Among the 18.4 lakh 43.7 per cent are Muslims, 31.2 per cent are
Hindus and 25.1 per cent are Christians (Economic Review 2004, State Planning
Board, February 2005, p. 428). Then how can be a
Kerala Muslim become a backward in fiscal terms.

Annual foreign remittance through legitimate channel is more than 28,937
crore. Fifty six percent of this fund is of the Muslims community. At
the same time in 2004-05 government disbursed Rs. 5,860.2 crore as salary to
its 4,86,000 employees. Of the 76,57,000 Muslims of the state, more than
7,80,000 persons employed in gulf sector. Amongst the government servants,
according to the official statistics, 11.4 per cent (55,404) are Muslims. But
the Paloli Committee suppressed the fact that the lion share of fairly earning
sections of Kerala is Muslims.

Let us examine the minority communities’
shares in the industry, agriculture, trade and commerce sector of Kerala.


 The industrial
sectors, 30 per cent and 35 per cent is respectively under the control of the
Muslims and Christians. In the agriculture sector, Muslims hold 23 per cent and
the Christians’ hold is 40 per cent. In trade and commerce sectors Muslims and
Christians correspondingly hold 40 per cent and 36 per cent. Conversely the all
castes of Hindus hold in the segments such as industrial is 28 per cent, in
agriculture is 24 per cent, and trade-commerce is 22 per cent. Don’t forget
the fact that certain weakest Hindu castes shares in the above sectors may be
. (K. C. Zachariah, CDS Study, report: The New Indian Express, Cochin, July 16, 2004).

It is genuine to examine the land owning
patter of Kerala


The per household land owning of all Hindus is 69.1 per
cent, of Muslims it is 77.1 per cent and in the case of Christians it is 126.4
per cent. (Kerala Padanam, p. 54). The Hindu population of Kerala as per the
2001 census is 56.2 per cent. Of them 5.5 per cent are farmers and 18.3 per
cent are farm labourers. The Muslim population as per the latest census is 24.7
per cent and among them 6.1 per cent are farmers and 11.8 per cent are farm
labourers. The 19.1 per cent Christians are the most blessed and 12.8 per cent
of them are farmers and 11.2 per cent are agricultural labourers. The number of
BPL people is too high among Hindu communities. It is 39.3 lakh amongst the
Hindus. On the other hand it is 24.7 lakh and 8.2 lakh respectively amongst the
Muslims and Christians. Another important disparity between the minorities and
the Hindus exits in the case of the possession of habitable houses. 89.7 per
cent Muslims are living in habitable and pucca houses. On the other hand in the
case of Christians and Hindus it is 80.1 per cent and 83.6 per cent
respectively. (Kerala Padanam, p 48). While
considering the economic parameters, who can push the Muslims in the dustbin of

Kerala has number one position in the case
of suicides.


It is 30.5 per lakh and above the national average of 11.2
per lakh. The main reasons behind most of the suicides are economic
difficulties. The main victims of this suicide tempo are the Hindus. Of the
total suicides Hindus’ share is 92 per cent, Christians’ is 6.5 per cent and
Muslims’ is 1.5 per cent. The suicides and their causes are least affected by
the Muslims of Kerala and it is sufficient testimony to the healthy social
living of the community.

Let us see the health and hygiene scenario
of the Muslims of Kerala.


The highest number of hospitals are located in Muslim
majority districts of the state. Malappuram, one of the Muslim majority
districts of Kerala, has the highest number (123) of government Allopathic
hospitals. In addition to it there are 237 private Allopathic hospitals, 554
Ayurvedic hospitals and 165 Homeopathic hospitals are functioning in this
district (Keralam 2000, State Language Institute, Trivandrum, pp 915-18).
Lowest numbers (40) of government Allopathic hospitals are functioning at
Wayanad district. Kottayam district is one of the well advanced regions in the
socio-cultural scenario of Kerala and has only 85 government Allopathic
hospitals. Similarly 20.8 per cent of the Muslim students are studying in
the English medium schools. On the other hand the Hindu share in this envious
educational field is 20.5 per cent
(Kerala Padanam, p 96).

Usually in Kerala, women seeking jobs are only from economically non-stable
families. 35 per cent of the ST women and 31.1 per cent of the SC women are
earning through jobs.
In the case of Hindus, Christians and Muslims, women
job seeker ratio is 28.8 per cent, 21.5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
(Kerala Padanam, p 117). It is the reality that in the contemporary Kerala,
highly qualified Muslim women are reluctant to go for jobs. Kerala Muslim women
are equally or more literate and qualified to their Hindu and Christian
. The paradox is that while they were quite illiterate their
dress code was native: while 10 per cent in the old generation are using
purdha 31.6 per cent of the young generations are clad with purdha
. (Kerala
Padanam, p 135).

In the case of food habits and intake of nutritious food the Muslim community
of Kerala is far ahead to others. 81.7 per cent of the Muslim households are
regularly preparing the breakfast. At the same time in the case of Hindus and
STs this is 65.8 per cent and 31.6 per cent respectively.
(Kerala Padanam,
p. 130). Above all, the Muslim community in Kerala is too far long to other
groups in the case of taking high calorie food
. (Kerala Padanam, p 132).

If using of purdha, polygamy, teenage marriage and non-compliance to family
planning are the parameters of backwardness the remedy recommended by the
Paloli Committee is not worthy and it will further pull them backward. The
villain of the Muslim backwardness is their religious convictions popularised
by the Mullahs.

Whether Paloli or Sachar, it is a shameful trend that all of them are trying to
assess the social position and range of the Muslims through the lure of the
government jobs: either scavenger or IAS. You just decide who are backward
in Kerala?

(The writer is Prof. of History, MahatmaGandhiUniversity
and can be contacted at [email protected])

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