NEW YORK – Hit by decades of social and economic neglect in Hindu India,  the suffering Indian Muslims are complaining of unfulfilled politicians’ promises that left them in abject poverty far behind the once low-caste Hindus.

“We are way behind them,” Murtaza Mansuri, who repairs rickshaws for a living, was quoted as saying by the New York Times, which carried a dispatch on Saturday focusing on the plight of Muslims in India, which claims to be a secular state.

“Reservation is essential for Muslims. If we don’t get education, we will remain backward, while others move forward and forward,” he added.

Living for decades close to the Dalits, the low-caste Hindus once known as untouchables, Mansuri said the Hindus were getting government jobs, or slots in public universities, opportunities that have meant stable salaries and nicer homes

Leaving Muslims behind, the affirmative action quota for low-caste Hindus, a policy known in India as reservation, made life harder for the religious minority, the Times said.

In education, employment and economic status, Muslims felt under persistent discrimination in a Hindu-majority nation.Muslims are also more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities, a landmark government report found in 2006, and less likely to qualify for bank loans.

“We also fought against the British for Indian independence,” said Hafiz Aftab, president of the All-India Muttahida Mahaz, an organization that has led protests on behalf of Muslim preferences.

“We lost so many of our brightest people. But after freedom, the government didn’t make any efforts to uplift Muslims,” the Times quoted him as saying.

Feeling betrayed by politicians, Muslim voters in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh dealt a heavy a blow last week to the country’s ruling Congress Party, the regional Samajwadi Party to meet their aspirations for a better life.

“These Scheduled Castes were the most deprived people socially and economically in Uttar Pradesh,” said Aftab in an interview before the state elections. “Now they are the ruling class. This is the result of 64 years of reservation.”

As the reservation policies were codified in the Indian constitution, analysts decried the politicians’ use of the Scheduled Castes to carve out new vote banks.

“Our Constitution says we should not provide reservation on the grounds of religion,” said Mufti Julfiquar Ali, a Muslim leader in Uttar Pradesh.