India’s Muslims account for 13.4 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion population and constitute its largest minority group. Since the country’s independence in 1947 and right up to the present decade, the Muslim community in various parts of the country has suffered hundreds of violent, sectarian attacks. A recent peak involved the Gujarat riots of 2002, when 2,000 Muslims were killed in a state-sponsored pogrom. When the ruling party in Gujarat state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was subsequently re-elected to power in the province with a larger electoral margin than before, it raised fears that the discrimination and violence were acquiesced to by the majority Hindu community.
These fears dissipated in 2004 when the BJP lost power in national elections, apparently in part because of its sectarian policies. However, the loss of life and assets in the Gujarat riots has raised the question of how the weakened Muslim community could recover.
In response, and in fulfillment of an electoral promise to Muslims, in 2005, the new national government in India, led by the Congress party, created a committee, termed the “Prime Ministers’ High-Level Committee on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India,” to study the status of the Muslim community to enable the state to identify areas of intervention. Informally known as the Sachar Committee, named after its Chairperson, Rajendra Sachar, the Committee submitted a report in 2006.
Four years after the report has been written, far from acting on its findings, not a single area of intervention has been mooted by the state, even as the report remains largely ignored by the media and other organs of civil society. Why is this and what does it tell us about the future of India’s Muslims?