Is Rise of Hindutva Proportional to Growth of Muslim Middle-Class?

Why would people allow politicians to divide communities if it meant giving up goodwill they’ve enjoyed for decades?

4 min read
Is Rise of Hindutva Proportional to Growth of Muslim Middle-Class?

Even before one could realise, the accusation of the politics of appeasement (a euphemism for a perceived bias among certain parties for Muslims) gave way to “unka man bahut badh gaya hai” (they, meaning Muslims, have become very aggressive).

Indifference towards a community, once considered economically backward, has given way to outright ridicule – often bordering on hatred. Recent cases of mob lynching in the name of cow protection or otherwise are manifestations of this changing attitude toward Muslims.

Too caught up to read? Listen to the story hear.

Secularists blame, what they call, the politics of hatred (repackaged now as something in ‘national interest’), being pursued by the saffron brigade for such a sorry state of affairs. They also blame the fringe elements of the minority community for openly espousing equally divisive politics, adding fuel to the fire. They believe that the culture of co-existence is the core and the fringe elements are about to destroy that.


Action Begets Reaction is the New Justification for Growing Communal Hatred

However, anti-secularists, whose ranks have swelled exponentially in the last few years, attribute the growing clashes to ‘action begets reaction theory’. If they do it, they deserved to be paid back with interest, so goes the argument of the burgeoning tribe of anti-secularists.

They always blame the “other” for all the problems – some are real, but many “others” are pure imaginary.

Different arguments and justifications aside, why would people allow politicians to divide communities if that meant sacrificing the goodwill they have enjoyed for decades? 

Data on changing economic conditions of Muslims since 2000 offers some answer.

The Size of Muslim Middle Class Has Grown Faster Than Others

Based on National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data, social scientists Sandhya Krishnan and Neeraj Hatekar have mapped the growth of the new middle class, according to different social categories, from 1999-2000 to 2011-12 (EPW; June 3, 2017).

The authors have included all those who spend $2 to $10 (roughly 130 to 650 rupees) per capita per day in the new middle class. What stands out is the sharp differential in the growth in size of new middle class among Muslims and upper caste Hindus.

According to the NSSO data analysed, while the size of the Muslim middle class grew by a whopping 86 percent between 1999-2000 to 2011-12, that of the Hindu middle class went up by an impressive 76 percent. 

However, the size of the new middle class of other castes (meaning non-OBC, non-SC and non-ST Hindus) grew by a mere 45 percent during that period.

Muslims Have Benefitted From Their Traditional Association With Non-Agriculture Sectors

What explains the somewhat better relative performance of Muslims in recent years?

I had written elsewhere that “the Sachar Committee report, one of the most comprehensive and authoritative source of information on socio-economic status of Indian Muslims, offers some answers. The report says, “while the share of Muslim workers engaged in agriculture is much lower than for other groups, their participation in manufacturing and trade (especially for men) is much higher than for other SRCs (Socio Religious Categories). Besides, their participation in the construction work is also high." The report adds that besides construction, the participation of Muslim workers is quite high in retail and wholesale trade, land transport, automobile repair, manufacture of tobacco products, textiles and apparel and fabricated metal products.”

Incidentally, while agriculture has seen very modest growth in post-liberalisation years, manufacturing and services (trade in particular) have grown at a faster clip.

Since Muslims have traditionally been associated with non-agriculture sectors, they have reaped the benefits of economic reforms launched in 1991 better than other communities. 

This is why the growth in size of middle class among Muslims has outpaced others.


Is Dilon Ki Doori a Result of Jealousy?

Is dilon ki doori a result of jealousy?

The relative outperformance of one social community may have disturbed the already existing social equilibrium, giving rise to suspicion and outright hatred.

No wonder, we keep hearing despicable expressions being used to describe “others” in areas with history of communal tension.

Inki aukat kya thi? Lekin ab inke bachche fancy bikes par baithkar malls jaate hain aur hamari ladkiyon se aanken ladate hain (What was their worth? But their kids roam around in fancy bikes, go to malls and harass our girls),” a Hindu businessman told me in western Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut a few years ago.

Such expressions, heard all too frequently in many parts of the country, are perhaps a result of the feeling of getting left out. A result of the feeling of relative deprivation perhaps. Fringe elements from both the sides have been all too eager to exploit this.

(We all love to express ourselves, but how often do we do it in our mother tongue? Here's your chance! This Independence Day, khul ke bol with BOL – Love your Bhasha. Sing, write, perform, spew poetry – whatever you like – in your mother tongue. Send us your BOL at or WhatsApp it to 9910181818.)

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