How the narrative of ‘forgotten’ Pasmanda Muslims is changing in India


oi-Jagdish N Singh


Published: Saturday, August 6, 2022, 11:23 [IST]

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‘Pasmanda’ refers to those who have fallen behind in life and society. It is a term given to backward and Dalit Muslims.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to work for the uplift of the marginalised or Pasmanda Muslims reflects the care the present government at the Centre accords to this community.

Observers say that at the recently concluded National Executive meet of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Modi did well to call upon his partymen to start “sneh yatras” (affection campaigns) to reach out to Pasmanda Muslims and listen to their genuine aspirations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

‘Pasmanda’ is a Persian word. It refers to those who have fallen behind in life and society. It is a term given to backward and Dalit Muslims, counterparts of the deprived Hindu castes like the Valmikis, dhobis and Koris. The Pasmandas include the Ansaris, Mansooris, Raeen and Qureshis. They are Malik (teli), Momin Ansar (weavers), Qureshi (butchers), Salmani (barbers) and Hawari (washermen).

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The finer, quintessential version of Islam preaches equality and brotherhood across the entire humanity. Regrettably, however, amongst Muslims, followers of this religion in India, there has prevailed a social gradation. The Ashrafs claim their ancestry from the Prophet. Ajlaf and Arzal are the lowest of the lowest castes among Muslims.

The lower caste Muslims are looked down upon by the members of the higher castes amongst them. Most of the members of the prominent Muslim bodies, such as the Jamiat and Jamaat-e-Islami, are from the upper caste Muslims only.

Under the policy of affirmative action , the successive dispensations, both at the Centre and in the states, have claimed to take several measures aimed at improving the conditions of the Pasmandas . Based on the Mandal Commission report, a policy of 27 per cent reservation was started for the OBCs. Of this, nearly 79 castes belong to the Pasmanda community.

But all this hardly made any substantial, qualitative difference in the life of the Pasmandas. Presently, there are over 40 Pasmanda communities in Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. For generations, their economic conditions have not improved.

The good news is the Modi government is determined to improve the scenario for the Pasmandas. It is aware that no social segment can be left uncared and deprived in our modern Republic. There are positive results of the government’s determination. Today the Pasmandas make up for a big proportion of schemes like scholarship schemes, Awas Yojana, PMJVKY. Some centrally run programmes, like holding of ‘Hunar Haats,’ give a platform for artisans, including Muslim weavers who belong to this community.

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Some 40 million beneficiaries of various welfare schemes of the Centre and the UP government are Pasmandas. About 70 per cent of the post holders and workers in UP’s minority wing belong to this community. In Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government has given political representation to this community. It has appointed a member of this community as a minister of state. The chairmen of the state minority commission and madarsa board today belong to the Pasmanda community.

(Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, New York)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Story first published: Saturday, August 6, 2022, 11:23 [IST]

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