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About the Muslims in India

Muslims constitute about 160 million people who can also be categorized as the second largest majority in the country. Some authentic sources tell us that the actual number of the Muslims in India is more than the official figures, i.e., 13.4% (2001 census). Some NGOs, the late Hakeem Abdul Hameed of Hamdard and Justice Sardar Ali Khan put their numbers between 15 to 18 percent of the total population of the country. Therefore, marginalisation of the second majority community of the country (which is also the largest minority community in Indian democracy and developmental process) certainly raises serious concerns for all of us. The Muslims are spread all over the country—States and Union Territories. In certain areas, they constitute majority and near majority strength. About 52.13% of the Muslims in India reside in three states--Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar. Four southern states—Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu account for 19.6% of the total Muslim population.

Moreover, the Muslims constitute over 30% of the population of Assam. They are also minority in other states. India’s population is predominantly rural with only 27.8% as urban population. The Muslim population is also predominantly rural but less linked to land than the over all population.The Sachhar Committee Report on page 30 shows that large variations were seen in the size of the Muslim population among districts. In 25 districts, the Muslim population exceeded one million each in the 2001 census. The largest was Murshidabad (3.7 million) followed by Mallapuram, South 24-Parganas, and North 24-Parganas. Of the million plus Muslim population districts, ten are in West Bengal, five in Uttar Pradesh, three in Jammu and Kashmir, and seven in other states. Besides, in 51 districts the Muslim population is between half to one million.

Thus 76 districts have at least half a million Muslims each and just over half of India’s Muslim population. At the other end, there are 106 districts with very small Muslim populations of below 10,000. Of the 593 districts of India in 2001, only nine could be considered predominantly Muslim, that is, with an over 75 % of the Muslim population. In addition, Muslims constituted 50 to 75 % of the population in 11 districts (six from Assam, two from Jammu and Kashmir, and one each from Kerala, Bihar and West Bengal). Twenty districts have a Muslim majority, 38 have a substantial population, though not majority, i.e., over 25 but below 50 %. On the contrary, their participation in economy and education is marginal. Their ownership of land, employment and representation in elected bodies are far below. Their exclusion is so much transparent that it can be observed in any sectors of the government or other agencies.

However, it is important to look at the Indian perspective of minority rights. The Indian Constitution has incorporated many human rights provisions which had similar footings in the UN Charter including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992. Moreover, certain important provisions of the Lund Recommendations can also be traced in the Fundamental Rights (Part III) of the Indian Constitution. Like elsewhere, the term minority, which has been used only in four Articles (29, 30, 350A and 350B), is left undefined. Last two articles only deal with the linguistic minority groups. The National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992 merely says that minority for the purpose of this Act means "a community notified as such by the Central Government."1 Under this provision the Union Government (Welfare Ministry) had issued a notification in 1993 listing the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians as the minorities. The following Table 1estimates minority status by looking into the numerical strength of communities not at the all India level but the territories they reside in.

Union Territories
Majority (%) 1st Minority (%) 2nd Minority (%)
Andhra Pradesh Hindus (89.14) Muslims (8.91) Christians (1.83)
Andaman and Nicobar Islands Hindus (67.53) Christians (23.95) Muslims (7.61)
Arunachal Pradesh Hindus (37.40) Doni Polos (31.85) Buddhists (12.88)
Assam Hindus (67.13) Muslims (28.43) Christians (3.32)
Bihar* Hindus (82.42) Muslims (14.81) Christians (0.97)
Hindus (75.84) Sikhs (20.00) Muslims (2.72)
Dadra & Nagar Haveli Hindus (95.48) Muslims (2.41) Christians (1.51)
Daman & Diu Hindus (87.76) Muslims (8.91) Christians (2.86)
Delhi Hindus (83.67) Muslims (9.44) Sikhs (4.08)
Goa Hindus (64.68) Christians (29.86) Muslims (5.25)
Gujarat Hindus (89.48) Muslims (8.73) Jains (1.18)
Haryana Hindus (89.21) Sikhs (5.81) Muslims (4.64)
Himachal Pradesh Hindus (95.90) Muslims (1.72) Buddhists (1.23)
Jammu & Kashmir Muslims (64.00) Hindus (32.24) Sikhs (2.23)
Karnakata Hindus (85.45) Muslims (11.64) Christians (1.91)
Kerala Hindus (57.28) Muslim (23.32) Christians (19.32)
Lakshadweep Muslims (94.31) Hindus (4.52) Christians (1.16)
Madhya Pradesh** Hindus (92.80) Muslims (4.96) Jains (0.74)
Maharashtra Hindus (81.12) Muslims (9.67) Buddhists (6.38)
Manipur Hindus (57.67) Christians (34.11) Muslims (7.27)
Meghalaya Christians (64.58) Hindus (14.67) Muslims (3.46)
Mizoram Christians (85.73) Buddhists (7.83) Hindus (5.05)
Nagaland Christians (87.47) Hindus (10.12) Muslims (1.71)
Orissa Hindus (94.67) Christians (2.16) Muslims (1.83)
Pondicherry Hindus (86.16) Christians (7.23) Muslims (6.54)
Punjab Sikhs (63.00) Hindus (34.46) Muslims (1.18)
Rajasthan Hindus (89.08) Muslims (8.01) Sikhs (1.47)
Sikkim Hindus (68.37) Buddhists (27.00) Christians (3.30)
Tamil Nadu Hindus (88.67) Christians (5.69) Muslims (5.47)
Tripura Hindus (86.50) Muslims (7.13) Buddhists (4.65)
Uttar Pradesh*** Hindus (81.00) Muslims (17.33) Sikhs (0.48)
West Bengal Hindus (74.72) Muslims (23.61) Christians (0.56)
Source: Minorities Commission Reports, 1998-99, P-VIII.
* It includes the newly created State of Jharkhand.
** It includes the newly created State of Chhatisgarh.
*** It includes the newly created State of Uttranchal.
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