There is an increasing realisation in Muslim circles of the pressing need to focus on the economic and educational concerns of the community and to desist from playing into the hands of Hindutva forces by remaining engrossed in identity-related concerns. How this will impact the dismal educational conditions of the Muslim masses remains to be seen Educationally, Muslims rank among the most marginalised communities in India. Numerous official surveys and documents have admitted this fact, but the state as well as community leaders have done little to redress the situation. There are several causes of educational backwardness among Muslims. A large proportion of Indias Muslims are descendants of low caste converts. Despite conversion to Islam their social and economic conditions remained unchanged, and they remained tied down to their traditional occupations, mainly as artisans, small peasants and agricultural labourers. Reflecting deeply-rooted upper caste Brahminical prejudices, pre-colonial ruling elites (Muslim and Hindu) took little or no interest in their development. The historical record reveals a deep-rooted contempt displayed by the Muslim nobility or shurafa, who claimed foreign descent for indigenous Muslim converts. Like other Dalit and low caste groups, these Muslim communities remained educationally deprived. In other words, the caste-class origins of many Indian Muslims explain, in part, the overall educational marginalisation of the community today. The partition in 1947 also had momentous consequences for Muslim education. In its wake the bulk of the modern-educated north Indian Muslim middle class shifted to Pakistan, leaving behind millions of economically and educationally deprived co-religionists. Before 1947, the north Indian middle-class, particularly the products of the Aligarh Muslim University, had played a key role in promoting modern education. In the absence of a class that championed liberal or progressive causes, the prospects for education were bleak. There was also the fear, not entirely unfounded, that government schools, with their Hindu-oriented syllabus and anti-Muslim bias, would result in de-Islamisation of Muslim children. The discriminatory policies of various state governments towards Urdu, which was unfairly branded as a Muslim language, hit north Indian Muslims particularly badly, dampening their enthusiasm for sending their children to school, where Hindi, and in some states Sanskrit as well, was made compulsory for all students. Key Muslim leaders, especially large numbers of ulema, responded by appealing to Muslims to stay away from government schools and to establish alternative institutions of their own, where Muslim children could be taught the basics of their faith. Related to this was the undeniable fact of the state institutional discrimination towards Muslims. State investment in education in Muslim-dominated areas has been pathetic. Muslims have also not sufficiently benefited from various government schemes meant for general educational and economic advancement. Muslims routinely argue that despite possessing adequate educational qualifications they are not employed in government services, and point out that Muslim representation in the services is much less than that warranted by their population. What is the use, many Muslims ask, of investing in their childrens higher education if they are refused government employment simply because of their religion? In the private sector, too, Muslims, like Dalits, believe that discrimination continues unabated, further dampening their enthusiasm for higher education. This has led to demands by some Muslim organisations for reservations for Muslims, either as a single category or for backward caste Muslims, in government jobs and in educational institutions. A very large proportion of Muslims are economically marginalised, and the state has done little to address their pathetic living conditions. Periodic riots in places where Muslims have witnessed some degree of economic progress have resulted in pushing large sections of the community against the wall, leading to a process of ghettoisation and further strengthening insularity and religious conservatism. In addition, the neo-liberal economic policies of the last two decades or so have hit various Muslim artisan communities across the country severely. Mounting economic marginalisation and deprivation naturally make higher education an impossible proposition for many Muslim families. Given their poverty and the feeling of discrimination in both private and public sector employment, many Muslims feel it is enough for their children to receive a basic education before seeking some sort of petty self-employment to contribute to the family upkeep. This accounts for the fact that the dropout rate among school-going children at all levels is considerably higher among Muslims than among other communities defined by religion. This has led to demands for separate economic development programmes for Muslims, or at least for proportional allocation of state funds for Muslim economic advancement, with the state being accused of neglect of and discrimination towards Muslims in its various development schemes. Another reason for the overall educational marginalisation of the Muslim community, particularly in north India, is the fact that the community is deeply divided within, and lacks political leadership. The Muslim community, particularly in north India, where most Muslims live, is bereft of a substantial educated middle class. This has allowed Muslim clerics or ulema to assert their claim of being its spokesmen as well as the defenders of Islam and Muslim identity. They are backed by various political parties, who use them to garner the Muslim vote. The ulema take little interest in the real-world concerns of ordinary Muslims, focusing instead on religious, symbolic or identity-related issues, such as Urdu, the minority character of the Aligarh Muslim University, Muslim Personal Law and the Babri Masjid controversy. This must be seen, in part, as a means to promote their own interests and claims to authority, fearing that focusing on secular issues, including education, would result in the emergence of a leadership that would challenge their own position. This is also a reaction to Hindu chauvinism, with Hindutva groups also deliberately raking up such issues to create a Hindu vote-bank and to keep Muslims on the defensive, giving them little space to think of their economic and educational concerns or to demand their rights from the state. Consequently, since education, particularly of the marginalised, is not a prime concern of the existing Muslim leadership, particularly in north India, Muslims have not been active in setting up community-based educational institutions. Talk of a hidden nexus between political parties, even those that claim to be secular, Muslim political and religious leaders and Hindutva groups, all with a vested interest in keeping Muslim educational and economic issues out of political discourse, is thus not unwarranted. The situation is somewhat different in Maharashtra and Gujarat where fairly substantial numbers of middle-class Muslims live, mainly from traditional trading communities, such as Mohras, Khojahs, Memons, Labbais and Mapillas. Several modern educational institutions have been set up in these regions by Muslims in recent years. Many of these, however, cater to the middle classes and not the poor. Interestingly, several engineering, medical and other professional institutions set up by Muslims in southern India in recent years have a majority of non-Muslim students, owing to the high fees they charge. They function mainly as commercial ventures. Today, however, things are changing, gradually. In the wake of the devastating anti-Muslim riots after the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and again after the state-sponsored anti-Muslim genocide in Gujarat, there is an increasing realisation in Muslim circles of the pressing need to focus on the economic and educational concerns of the community and to desist from playing into the hands of Hindutva forces by remaining engrossed in identity-related concerns. How this will impact the dismal educational conditions of the Muslim masses remains to be seen.