North Indian Muslims Vs South Indian Muslims – A comprehensive comparison


By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

There is a huge difference between North India and South India. If you study the pattern of development based on development indices, you will be shocked to realize that while North India resembles a Sub Saharan Africa, living in extreme poverty and deprivation, South India resembles a relatively semi developed country. Some of the states in the region may compete to some extent with people in Eastern Europe that were once part of the Soviet Union and are now struggling to join European Union. While this is still not in terms of per capita income, but certainly on development indices.

While they might have still not achieved that level of prosperity, South India is galloping ahead to catch up with relatively well-off regions in different parts of the world. If you want to know the extent of divide between north and south India, just compare the income of two big north and south India states. Uttar Pradesh, the state with highest population in the country has per capita annual income of just Rs 48,520 or approximately US$760. Compare it with Karnataka’s annual per capita income of Rs 148,485 or approximately US$2,300 and you will find the difference. Telangana, the newest state in India, is even more prosperous than Karnataka. Its per capita income stands at Rs158,360 or approximately US$2,500.

A report, while talking about the South vs North divide says, “After years of reasonably good healthcare, rising literacy and infant survival rates, 10 states, including South India’s big four, virtually form a country distinct from the giants of the Hindi heartland. India’s fertility rate is now 2.6, the number of children born to each woman, but the rate in the southern states has fallen below two. That is below the replacement level of 2.1, the level at which population neither increases nor decreases. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) have fertility rates that match the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway—1.7 to 1.9 children per woman.”

While both the regions are starkly different, the difference between Muslims living in North India and South India is bigger and starker. Muslims in North India are largely poor, living at subsistence level, with low income, rampant illiteracy or mere literate, Muslims in South India are relatively well-off and almost as educated as their Hindu neighbors.

North Indian Muslims Vs South Indian Muslims Education
There is no denying that in proportion to their population, Muslims were worse-off than scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). Muslims comprise 14% of India’s population but account for 4.4% of students enrolled in higher education, according to the 2014-15 All India Survey on Higher Education.

A report by IndiaSpend says that “The situation has worsened over the last half century, according to the 2006 Sachar Committee, appointed to examine the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community…In younger SC/STs (aged 20 to 30), the committee reported three times the proportion of graduates as in older SC/STs (aged 51 years and above). Among Muslims, the committee found double the proportion of graduates among younger Muslims compared to older Muslims, “a widening gap between Muslim men and women compared with ‘All Others’, and an almost certain possibility that Muslims will fall far behind even the SCs/STs, if the trend is not reversed”.

Compared to Muslims in North India, Muslims in Southern States score much better than their peers in the North or even general population in the state. Literacy rate among Muslims Karnakataka stands around 76.89% much higher than the state average and above national average compared to 64.64% which is the literacy rate of Hindus in the region. While Muslims in North India too live in cities, their concentration in Urban areas is higher in Karnataka. There are hardly any Muslims in the rural areas, this leads to awareness and availability of higher number of schools in the vicinity.

Nonetheless, despite higher literacy level, when it comes to higher education, dropout rate is much higher(in the 18-20 years age group, it is very high at 61.2 p.c. and 84 p.c. in the 21-29 years age group) and enrollment for higher education is much lower. Enrolment of Muslim students is 11.5 p.c. at school-level, but it’s only around 5 p.c. at the Intermediate level and Similarly, in Bachelor Degree and Masters Degree programmes (2014-15), their percentage is found to be very low with the highest of 10.85 p.c..

Kerala scores even higher when it comes to education. Muslims run large number of educational institutions right from primary level to post graduate level and a number of professional institutions imparting education to everyone, Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

North Indian Muslims Vs South Indian Muslims run Educational Institutions

It is not merely education, Muslims run a large number of educational institutions in South India, whereas in North India, Muslims are just waking up to this fact and are still staggering to take baby steps in this regard.

BS Abdur Rahman University campus, Tamil Nadu
BS Abdur Rahman University, Tamil Nadu

Muslims in Tamil Nadu make merely six percent of the population in the state. But if you happen to see their educational institutions, you will tend to think that they make around a quarter of the population of the state. Despite their small number, their services in educational field are simply disproportionately high. After independence, Tamil Muslim entrepreneurs began to build schools and colleges. Jamal Mohamed College in Trichy, Waqf Board College in Madurai, Khadir Mohideen College, Adirampattinam, New College in Chennai and Haji Karutha Rowther Hawdhiya College in Uthamapalayam are some of famous service based Tamil Muslim colleges. In the mid 1980s, scores of Tamil Muslim self-financing educational institutions were started. Crescent Engineering College was upgraded to BS Abdur Rahman University. In Tamil Nadu, the school education of the Tamil Muslims is above-average compared to general literacy level. But in higher and technical education Tamil Muslims lag behind, due to entrepreneurial commitments and jobs in the Persian Gulf and South East Asia. But now the picture is changing slowly. There are over 65 Tamil Muslim educational institutions in Tamil Nadu.

Similar is the case with Muslims in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. In Chennai alone, the number of Muslim institutions of higher learning and professional institutions will be equal to total number of Muslim colleges in Uttar Pradesh where more than 4 crore Muslims live. Similar is the case of Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Mallapuram, Kochin, Bangalore. Even in small cities like Mangalore, Gulbarga, Bidar, Aurangabad, Calicut Muslims run large number of educational institutions right from pre primary to post graduate level and professional institutions including engineering colleges, architecture colleges, medical, paramedical, law and colleges of education.

Compared to it, Muslims in North India have just started taking baby-steps in this direction. In UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam where the majority of Muslims reside, they are starting to establish secondary and senior secondary English medium schools, and some professional colleges. But these are just the beginning and a lot more needs to be done.

Economic condition of North Indian Muslims Vs South Indian Muslims

Just take a tour of a Muslim locality in North India and a Muslim locality in South India and you will understand the difference. Muslims in South India are much, much better off than the Muslims in North India.

Prestige Group project in Bangaluru
Prestige Group project in Bangaluru

If you want evidence, just visit LuLu International Shopping Mall in Kochi and you will realize the economic contribution of Muslims in Kerala. LuLu Mall, in the city of Kochi, Kerala, is the 2nd largest shopping mall in India after DLF Mall of India ,Noida. It is one of the most visited places in Kerala. Spanning 17 acres (6.9 ha) with a total built up area of 2.5 million square feet, the mall has a total retail space of 1.7 million square feet. The mall was opened on March 2013. The estimated cost for this project is more than ?16 billion or US$250 million

The real estate market in Bangalore cannot imagined without Prestige Group owned by Irfan Razack or Feroze’s Estate. 63-year old Irfan Razack who according to Forbse is worth $1.2 billion is one of the top entrepreneurs from Bangalore. A low profile business magnate, he is the Managing Director of Prestige Group, one of the reputed property developers in India and The Chairman and Co-Founder of Inventure Academy, Bangalore. Then there is Azim Hashim Premji in Bangalore, Hamid Sheikh of Cipla in Mumbai and many other billionaire businessmen in this part of India. Compare it with business scenario in North India, you will not find any similar instance, though some Muslims have seen their business grow in some particular sectors. But they are few and far between.