minority report

Some shocking facts about Maharashtra's Muslims the state does not want you to know

The Mahmoodur Rahman Committee report on the socio-economic conditions of the state's Muslims is yet to be officially released, but it reveals that the community has very poor social indices.

Maharashtra's urban Muslims are poorer than even members of the scheduled castes and tribes. They tend to live in ghettos because they can't find homes anywhere else, and banks are wary of giving them loans.

These are among the findings of a report prepared by a five-member committee headed by retired bureaucrat Dr Mahmoodur Rahman, which was appointed in 2008 by the Maharashtra government to study the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in the state. However, though the report was submitted to the state’s Congress-led government in October 2013, it has not yet officially been released or tabled in the Assembly.

Since the Maharashtra government showed no signs of releasing the Mahmoodur Rahman report, which Maharashtra’s version of the pioneering Sachar Committee report on the status of Muslims across India, community organisations filed RTI queries to find out the causes for the delay.

Last week, the Movement for Peace and Justice, a non-profit organisation, finally managed to obtain a copy of the report, seven months after applying for it. The contents reveal that Maharashtra’s 10.2 million Muslims struggle with the debilitating consequences of poverty, prejudice and discrimination on almost every aspect of their lives.

“The state of Maharashtra has witnessed the highest number of Hindu-Muslim riots post-Independence,” the report says. “Displacement and subsequent ghettoisation has been a result of communal riots. Ghettoisation has made it easier for state authorities to neglect Muslim concentration areas and not provide them with adequate services.”

The report says that one-fifth of Muslims in the state do not have a ration card, making it difficult for them to access government schemes for health, education or employment.

Here are some of the findings of the Mahmoodur Rahman report, which is based largely on data from the 2001 census.

Poverty: Maharashtra performs worse than the rest of India when it comes to urban poverty rates among Muslims. Urban Muslims in the state are also much poorer than members of scheduled castes and tribes:


About 45% of Muslim households have a per capita income of less than Rs 500 a month, and only 10% of Maharashtrian Muslims own land. Only one-third of Muslim households in the state have a bank account, and just 6.8% are able to obtain credit from banks or cooperatives. According to studies commissioned by the Minorities Commission, banks tend to be reluctant about granting loans to Muslims, on the assumption that that they will not pay back their loans.

Housing: Most Muslims tend to live in ghettos because of the fear of riots and discrimination in the housing market. In urban Maharashtra, 90% of them live in Muslim areas, 8% live in mixed areas and 2% in areas that have just a few Muslim families. Banks are reluctant to give members of the minority community housing loans, because they tend to declare Muslim localities as negative areas. In fact, 58% of urban Muslims live in slums. Meanwhile, only 18.5% of rural Muslims live in pucca homes.

Education: Maharashtrian Muslims have a total literacy rate of 78.1%, which is higher than the state average of 76.9%. But the Sachar report points out that these numbers are not a true measure of a community’s educational status, because most of these literates are not able to apply their reading and writing skills in real life and slip back into illiteracy in a few years of leaving school. In addition, barely 3% of literate Muslims manage to obtain graduate degrees.


The performance of women here is even worse: only 19% of urban Muslim women, and 10.9% of rural ones, are enrolled in secondary and higher secondary school. Only 1% of rural Muslim women in the state get college degrees.

Employment: While 32.2% of Maharashtra’s Hindus are farmers, only 8.1% Muslims cultivate land, because land ownership is low among Muslims. In fact, 44.4% of rural Muslims land up working as agricultural labourers, compared with 36.1% of Hindus. Because of a severe dearth of formal employment opportunities in Muslim areas, most of them work in the informal, unorganised sector.

Muslims also have very poor representation in government and semi-government jobs. Their share in government services is just 4.4%. In 2012, there was not a single Muslim in the entire cadre of the Indian Administrative Services.


Health: One of the few positives that emerge from the report is that the fertility rate among Maharashtra Muslims has been steadily declining, even though it is above the state average.


The use of contraception has also been increasing, although Muslim women commonly report being mocked about the number of children members of the community have. While trying to access public healthcare services, Muslim women often report facing stereotypical attitudes, like being called dirty or being constantly asked to remove the veil.

Discrimination: Muslims form 10.6% of Maharashtra's population, but form 27% of its prison population. The report found that overwhelmingly, Muslims feel that Muslim youth are wrongfully targeted.

Infrastructure: On an average, in urban areas, bus stops are located at a 1.3 km distance from Muslim areas, and discussions with transport authorities revealed that they avoid planning bus routes in those areas because Muslims are considered socially problematic. In addition, frequency of buses in these areas is low.

 
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Five of the world’s most incredible magic tricks that went wrong

Even the best planned illusions are often unpredictable and can have unfortunate consequences.

Magic has a special hold on our imagination, especially when magicians and illusionists perform death-defying tricks. But magic, much like life itself, is unpredictable. These are some of the world’s most audacious magic tricks that show how even some of the best magicians often miscalculate the risk:

The bullet catch. In this trick, a bullet is fired at a magician on stage who appears to catch it in his mouth. The bullet, before being fired, is marked by a member of the audience to ensure that it is the same bullet that’s caught by the magician. The bullet catch has been described as the most dangerous magic trick in the world and around 15 magicians have reportedly died performing it.

The Chinese water torture cell. In this illusion, the magician, with feet locked in iron restraints, is lowered face first into a glass tank filled with water in full view of the audience. The magician then has only minutes to undo the restraints and escape before drowning. Many magicians have attempted variations of this trick, and as recently as 2015, an escape artist called Spencer Horsmann nearly drowned when he failed to escape.

Buried alive. Legend has it that this illusion has its origins in India. There are many variations of the trick with the essential feature being that the magician is trapped underground in a box. In a famous 1999 event, the American magician David Blaine was buried in a Plexiglas coffin for seven days. He survived the trick but many others have not. Joe Burrus, an American magician attempted the trick in 1990 and died when his coffin broke underground.

Sword swallowing. This ancient art involves the magician inserting a sword or other sharp metal objects down his or her throat and into the stomach. Many variations have been performed with magicians swallowing long swords, multiple swords, bayonets and even hot swords to make it more dramatic. It is estimated that over 25 magicians have died performing it since the 19th century.

Death-defying escape under the sea. This magic trick was first performed by the Indian magician PC Sorcar Jr in 1969. Sorcar was sealed in a mail bag and locked in a wooden crate that was strapped with steel, welded, chained and thrown into the ocean. Sorcar managed to escape from the crate within 90 seconds and became a legend. In 1983, an escape artist called Dean Gunnarson performed a similar stunt in which he was handcuffed, chained and nailed into a coffin that was immersed into a river. The stunt went wrong, and Gunnarson had to be rescued by his support crew and resuscitated back to life.

Despite the best preparations, magic tricks can go awry and leave families without financial security. The video below takes the lens of humor but drives the point home.

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