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Modi’s Concern About ‘Pasmanda Muslims’ of Telangana

The best approach to assist the Muslim community in their development is to first identify who they are and then categorise them into different categories.  

Syed Ali Mujtaba

PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi made a special mention of the Pasmanda (Dalit and backward) Muslims when he spoke about them at the BJP national executive meeting in Hyderabad, the state capital of Telangana. The Prime Minister suggested that BJP should make efforts to gain the support of the Pasmanda Muslims as they are an economically backward and socially deprived section of the Muslim community.

The Prime Minister’s words gave the cue to an interesting study done on the Caste stratification among Muslims in Telangana. This is done by SK. Yousuf Baba a.k.a Sky Baba. The study sheds considerable light on the subject pointed out by the Prime Minister. Sky Baba’s study underlines the fact that caste census among the Muslim community is essential to make any meaningful intervention to uplift the community. The way forward suggested by the author can be replicated in the rest of the country and this will certainly change the status of the Muslims in India. Here are some take away from this study.

There are four categories of Muslims found in Telangana. In the first category are those converted from Hindu Scheduled caste and are economically backward and much below those who enjoy reservation benefits. These are Dudekulas, who converted to Islam from the Malas and Padmashalis scheduled caste, the weaving community known by several other names. In Nalgonda town, localities like Hyderkhan Guda, Manyanchelka, Jama Masjid, and Akkachelma are populated by Malas, and Madigas communities and they live alongside the Muslim community which makes it easy to trace those who converted to Islam and those who did not.

The second category of Muslims is those who converted from the nomadic tribes. These are Muslims who come to villages in Telangana with animals such as monkeys, bears, donkeys, and so on. There is a deer herding community in the Khammam district in Telangana. In the Kadapa district, at Vempalli, there is a juggling community (garadi). Then there are “Boriya wale” or basket and mat-making community called “Bontalollu” in Telugu. There is a ‘Ghodewale’ or horse-rearing community and there is ‘Lakdi Wale’ who gets firewood from the forest and sells them for a living. These are converts to Islam from Hindu Scheduled Tribe and their economic status is much below those who enjoy reservation. 

The third category comprises Muslims who are identified on the basis of occupational caste. These are dhobis (washing community), Hajjam (barber), Kasab (butcher), sunar (goldsmith), Badhai (carpenter), and blacksmiths who cast iron. There is a separate occupational community called ‘beggars’ in Telangana. Among them, there is a group called ‘ganta fakirolla goodem,’ who ring the bell while begging and are found near Koppal in the Nalgonda district. In the same Nalgonda district, there are villages of Patharphod, the stone-crushing community, who are found in other places like Kashivarigudem and Kasaram. According to sources, Muslims continue to work in more than 60 tribal-Dalit Bahujan jobs in Telangana.

There are several castes among the Muslim community who are included in Telangana State’s BC “E” list. They are; Achchukattalavandlu, Singali, Singamvallu, Achupanivallu, Achukattuvaru, Attar Saibulu, Attarollu, Dobi Muslim, Muslim Dobi, Dhobi Musliman, Turka Chakali, Turka Chakala, Turka Sakali, Turkala Vannan, Chakala, Sakala, Chakala, Muslim Rajakulu, Fakir, Fakir Budbudki, Ganti Fakir, Ganta Fakir, Turaka Budbudki, Darvesh Fakir, Juggling Muslim, juggling Saibs, Snake charmers, Jugglers, Gosangi Muslim, Pakirusaibs, Guddi Eluguvallu, Elugu Bantuvallu, Musalman Keelu Gurralavallu, Hajam, Nai, Nai Muslim, Naveed Labby, Labbai, Labban, Labba, Pakiria, Borewale, Dera fakirs, bontollu, Qureshi, Khasab, Marathi Khasab, Katika Muslim, Muslim Katika, Shaikh, Sheikh, Siddhi, Yaba, Habshi, Jasi, Turaka kasha, Kukkukotte deer saibulu, Chukki takanevale, Thirugudu guntalavaru, Thirugatiganta, Rolla kakku kottevaru, Butter podulu, Chakkatakare.

The fourth category of Muslims is those who do not fall under BC ‘B’ or BC ‘E’ castes/reservations category and they are bunched together in the OC category.  They are Syed / Sayyed, Mushek, Mughal, Pathan/Khan, Irani, Momin, Ansar, Bohra Shia, Ismaili Shia, Kutchi Memon, Jamayat, and Navayat.

Before the advent of Nizam’s rule in Telangana, many Muslims worked in caste-related jobs and did farming as well.  During Nizam’s rule, some Muslims gave up their caste-based professions and migrated to urban areas to do some menial salaried jobs. When they settled in the urban localities, they lost both their caste occupation as well their land in the village, and as a result their economic status did not improve in the urban areas.

Today, the majority of the Muslims in the urban areas are engaged in selling fruit on carts. They are auto mechanics at the roadside shops. Some repair bicycles, run puncture repairing shops, tailors, watchmakers, mall wagons, pepper carts, chai stalls, small sandal shops, tent houses, retail bargainers, and auto, car, jeep-lorry drivers, they are all Muslims. These Muslims earn their living doing menial jobs and their economic status is quite low.

Challenges in identifying Muslim converts

It is very difficult to identify Muslim converts from other caste and communities because there is a complete change in their identity, starting with names, religious practices, customs, lifestyle,s etc. There is no sign in the Muslim converts of their previous caste and religious identity and this loss of identity poses a huge challenge in identifying the Muslims, who have converted to Islam.

However, the silver lining is the economic status of most of these Muslims has not changed even after their conversion. This may help in navigation because the vast majority of Muslims are converting from scheduled castes and tribes or belonging to occupational caste among the Hindu community. For instance, bore-walls, the basket-maker community is the occupation pursued by the Yerukala Tribe which means Muslims who are engaged in this profession are converted from the Yerukala tribe.

Similarly, to identify Muslims who have converted from Dalits, one might consider their place of residence, their respective occupations, and particular cultural practices. For example, Dudekulas, Laddafs, and Pinjaris are possibly converted from the Mala and Padmashali, the handloom weaving community that is now categoriaed as scheduled caste.

Since there is huge diversity among the Muslim community, an in-depth research is required to understand their background. Some studies about the Muslim community have been done in states like Telangana but are totally absent in other parts of the country.  This can only happen by first doing the caste census and then delving deep into their origins to scrutinise Muslims who have converted to Islam from other caste categories of the Hindu religion.

Reservation and the Muslims

Muslims are not favoured when it comes to reservation even though the Constitution gives the fundamental right to freedom of religion but Muslims who have converted to Islam from the Hindu Dalit community are denied reservation. This is because they have changed their religious faith but that’s against constitutional previsions. Strictly speaking as per the Constitution they are entitled to reservation on par with the Dalit Hindus. After all change of religion has not changed the Dalit’s status. They too need reservations like their counterparts but that’s an old demand which is unlikely to get fulfilled.

A few Muslim groups, such as the Dudekula, Laddaf, and Pinjari, are given reservations and included in the B.C. “B” category but their economic condition is too low in comparison to their Hindu religious counterparts.

Some Muslim communities like Syed and Pathan who are believed to be forward caste are excluded from the 4 per cent reservation but in reality, they are also low in the economic index of development. Their surnames do not have any connection with their economic position and are in need of reservation

The way forward

The best approach to assist the Muslim community in their development is to first identify who they are and then categorise them into different categories.  Those who converted to Islam from their SCs Hindu brethren they should be placed under the category and considered for similar reservation given to the SCs. Similarly, those who converted from the tribe communities should also be placed on par with ST and be considered for reservation. Muslim converts from the occupational caste should be placed under “service” communities and be given reservations best fit for such category taking into account their economic status. Other Muslims should also be considered for reservation based on their socio-economic status.

In sum, this process must begin in the entire country because such kind of categorisation can alone make the way forward for any meaningful intervention to uplift the Muslim community. The first step in this is to do a caste census of the Muslim community and then provide governmental support to them based on their socio-economic status. This is the work of the government and its intervention is necessary if the Muslim community is needed to be uplifted from its current situation. The Prime Minister’s words of concern about Pasmanda Muslims give a ray of light in an otherwise dark tunnel in the discourse about the development of the Muslim community in India.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. The views expressed here are author’s personal. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@waquarahmed123gmail-com

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
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