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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 49, New Delhi, November 21, 2020

Backward Caste among Muslims in Bihar | Sohail Akhtar

Friday 11 December 2020


by Dr. Sohail Akhtar

Backward castes are a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are socially and educationally disadvantaged. It is one of several official classifications of the population of India, along with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs). The other backward castes (OBCs) were found to comprise 52% of the country’s population by the Mandal Commission report of 1980. It has also mentioned that the castes system is found in all the religion in Indian sub-continent, including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. Here, we can mention the distribution of population of each caste categories in India. In the Hinduism, 26% forward castes, 42.8% OBCs, 22.2% SCs and 9% STs. In Islam, 59.5% forward castes, 39.2% OBCs, 0.8% SCs and 0.5% STs found in India. There are 33.3% forward castes, 24.8% OBCs, 9% SCs and 32.8% STs found in Christianity. These all religion stays and lives freely in India without any fear and discrimination.

The castes wise distribution of population in Bihar is that, there are 15% population of forward caste Hindus which include Brahmin, Rajput, Kayastha, Bhumihar, 51% Backward caste Hindus in Bihar which include Yadav, Koiri, Kurmi and Teli. 8.87% forward caste Muslims which include Saikh, Sayed, Mughal, Pathan and Malik. 8% backward castes and extremely backward castes Muslims found in Bihar which include Julaha, Darji, Nai or Hajjam, Teli, Qassab, Gaddi, Kabariya or Kunjra, Mirasi, Faquir, etc, these backward castes are 39 in Bihar among Muslims. It is found that 6% Dalit Population, 10% Maha Dalit (poorest among poor Dalit are called Maha Dalit) population and 1.3% STs Population in Bihar. There is constantly rift between forward castes and backward caste either Hindus or Muslims. There is also discrimination among forward castes and backward castes Muslim in Bihar. Forward caste Muslims always create trouble for them. It was also found that forward castes Hindus and forward castes Muslims having the cordial association in Bihar and did not find any controversy between them.

Backwardness is routinely established in the various form of discrimination experienced by backward caste Muslims. Discrimination against Muslim backward castes by forward castes in Bihar takes the form of derogatory epithets, denial of marriage alliances, ousting from Muslim organization, not voting for them in elections, lack of representation in government service and legislature, observing distinction in the mosque and graveyard and humiliating behavior towards them.

The discrimination faced by backward caste Muslims in Bihar is best illustrated by the derogatory epithets use for them in everyday life by the forward castes. The Julaha (weavers) have been particularly the object of ridicule by forward castes but other backward castes have not been spared derision. Epithets such as kamina and Badzat have been used to emphasis the low status of Julaha (weavers). Julaha (weavers) are called Miyan Tum Tum, there is a famous phrase used by many people in Bihar about Julaha i.e ‘Khait Khay Gadaha Mar Khay Julah’. Kunjaras (vegetable sellers) have been labeled as quarrelsome, Dhunia (cotton carders) are called Miyan Dhundhun, Dafali (kind of musicians) are called Miyan Popo and Dhobi (washer man) are said to be of lower status even than Dome (untouchables). Most of the forward castes do not use proper word for backward caste they always use derogatory terms and not considered equal to their status. Most of the backward castes are very poor and they are being dominated by the forward castes. If they raise any voice them, they are beaten up and socially boycotted within and outside of their locality.

Many Ullemas (Learned Man) in Bihar deny marriage alliances between forward caste Muslims and backward caste Muslims and even go to the extent of calling such alliances illegitimate. One Ullema declared that a julaha (weavers) boy, even if he is well educated, getting high salaries in MNCs cannot marry a Syed girl. Similarly, this Ullema pointed out that Kassab (butchers), Shoe makers and Nai (Barbers) even if well-educated cannot be regarded as being equal to forward caste Muslims in making marriage alliances. These backward castes people having their marriage alliance in within their own community and forward castes do the same thing in Bihar. The backward caste Muslims have been ousted from Muslim organizations in Bihar such as Imarat-e-Sharia, Phulwari Sharif, Idar-e-Sharia, Patna, All India Milli Council, All India Muslim Personal Board, Urdu Academy, Sunni Waqf Board, Minorities Commission, Madarsa Board, and Urdu Advisory Council which have all been dominated by forward caste Muslims since independence and there was no such backward castes appointed among these organization in Bihar. If, with the support of government, some backwards castes appointed, they cannot digest them. They always make a conspiracy against these people.

Forward caste Muslims don’t vote for candidates belonging to backward castes in panchayat, MLAs and MPs elections but they expect them to vote for forward caste Muslims in the name of unity of all Muslims. Forward caste Muslims say that it is batter to tear up the ballot paper than to vote for Julaha (weavers) Kunjara (vegetable sellers) or Dhunia (cotton carders) or even any backward castes. They always believe that it is better to casts their precious vote to the forward castes of another religion rather than backward castes of their own religion. So it is not religion but castes play an important role in the election of Bihar. These two castes are polar opposite to each other. The backward caste Muslims have been kept out of Legislative Assembly and government services, IAS and IPS, and forward caste Muslims promoted in their place. There has been increasing awareness among backward caste Muslims of not getting their due share of political power and public employment and the problems of lack of education, poverty and Hunger among them as compared to forward caste Muslims. Backward caste Muslims never got their due, politically, economically and educationally, even though they numerically form a majority of the total Muslims population.

The forward caste Muslims observe distinction in the mosque and graveyard vis-a-vis backward caste Muslims in Bihar. In Desna village of Nalada district in Bihar, it was found that there were distinct rows in the mosque for performance of Friday prayers with the front rows reserved for forward caste Muslims and back rows for backward caste Muslims. In Makandu village of Lohardagga district in Bihar, Pamaria (backward castes) was pushed back during Friday prayer in the mosque and their children were discriminated against in the local madarsas. After this treatment, the Pamaria caste established its own mosque and madarsas. In the Beudar village of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, the Muslim castes of toddy-tappers also complained of being pushed back for performing Friday prayer in the mosque. In Dawan village of Bhojpur district in Bihar, a member of the Pamaria caste was pushed back for the performance of prayer at Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. In the same village, the forward caste Muslims said that backward caste Muslims should have their own Imam (Prayer leaders) because backward caste Muslims could not be allowed to perform prayers behind the Imam of forward caste Muslims. In the same village, Pamaria castes were not allowed to bury their dead in the forward caste (Pathan’s) graveyard. There have been many reported incidents in Bihar of Ashraf Muslims not allowing the burial of dead bodies in their graveyards to backward castes. Recent incident happened on 5th of June 2016 in Siwan district of Bihar that dominant caste Muslims did not allowed burying the dead bodies of Ahl-e-Hadis Maslakh (followers of A Hadis) in their graveyard in the same locality.

In a village near Danapur district in Bihar which was dominated by forward castes Syed and Pathan, there was resentment in performing prayer behind an Imam belonging to the backward Julaha castes and so the Imam had to be removed from the village. Since independence it was found that many mosques been constructed in Bihar not for prayer (Namaz) but by resentment with the forward caste Muslims in Bihar. There are many mosques in Bihar which are called Sunni mosque, Shias mosque, Barewali mosque, Dewbandi mosque and now days there are new sects’ emerged in many places of Bihar which are called Ahl-e-Hadis and have many differences with Muslim sects in Bihar. They have constructed their new mosque called Ahl-e-Hadis mosque. Many people of Bihar prefer to go to their own mosque for prayer because they have constructed their own mosque by following the different Imam. So they did not allow other Muslims to come for prayer in his own mosque, if they are following the different Imam

It was observed that discrimination against backward caste Muslims by the forward caste Muslims often took the form of humiliating and teasing behavior toward them. Further the backward caste Muslims were not allowed to sit on chairs in front of forward caste Muslims and they had to sit on the floor. The forward caste Muslims did not greet the backward caste Muslims till the backward caste Muslims greets them first. Thus, the forward caste Muslims dominate the backward caste Muslims and keep them at a distance.

(Author: Dr. Sohail Akhtar is Lecturer of Sociology at Dr. Z. H. I. I. College, Nidhauli Kalan, Etah, Uttar Pradesh | Email: sohailroxy[at]

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