Rajat Sharma

Why modernization is a must for all madarsas

AKBThe conditions of most of the private madarsas in UP and Bihar are today patethic, but before sharing the details with you, I would like to disclose what maulanas and ulema said on Tuesday about the UP government’s move to conduct a survey of unaided madarsas.

The maulanas, most of whom aree running madarsas in UP, were taking part in a top-level meeting convened by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. In the meeting, most of the ulema warned the Yogi government in UP and alleged that the state government was trying to project the madarsas in a bad light. At the end of the day-long meeting, it was announced that the ulema will not bow under any pressure. They said that the state government should extend all possible assistance and modernize the madarsas, and make arrangements for better education facilities for madarsa students. The ulema said they had no objection to the survey, but most of them expressed doubts over the intentions of the UP government. Some maulanas suggested that the community should approach the Supreme Court, and, if need be, gherao Parliament.

Most of the ulema were unhappy with the order issued by Yogi government to complete the survey of all unaided madarsas by October 25. The meeting convened by Jamiat decided (1) to form a committee of ulema to deal with the issue and (2) chalk out a plan of action at the next meeting in Darul Uloom, Deoband on September 24. Jamiat leader Maualana Mehmood Madani alleged that the minority community is being looked at in suspicion by the government. He said, the state government should have consulted Muslim organizations before issuing the order to conduct survey of madarsas.

Some of the maulanas questioned about whether the government had a right to conduct a survey of those madarsas which are being run on donations. At the meeting, the principals of madarsas were told in detail about the government order for survey. They were advised how to maintain their accounts and how to respond to the questionnaires. At the end of the meeting, neither Maulana Madani, nor Maulana Niaz Ahmed Farooqui or Kamal Farooqui opposted the UP government’s order. None of them questioned the government’s move, but they raised the issue of intention on part of the UP government.

Several maulanas in the meeting opposed the demolitions of a few madarsas in Assam by local authorities using bulldozers, after it was found that some of the teachers in the madarsas had connections with Al Qaeda and other radical outfits.

All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqui said that the UP government’s order was legally valid, and if shortcomings in some madarsas are found during survey, the steering committee would help the madarsas in removing them. But, Jamiat national secretary Maulana Niaz Ahmed Farooqui said, Muslim community on its own will improve the conditions of madarsas, and if the government took a hard position, “we will give them a reply”.

The UP government decided to conduct a survey of unaided madarsas after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in its report mentioned that in one madarsa, a student was kept bound in chains, while in another madarsa, a student was badly beaten up by the teacher. In UP, there are more than 16,000 madarsas, out of which only 560 madarsas, roughly 3.5 per cent, get aid from the state government. Nearly 97 per cent madarsas in UP are being run by donations.

I asked India TV reporters to conduct a survey of unaided madarsas in Lucknow, Kanpur, Unnao, Basti, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Saharanpur, Bulandshahr, Meerut, Moradabad and Baghpat. The ground reality check that emerged showed that most of the madarsas were in a pathetic condition.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we showed visuals from a madarsa in Loni near Ghaziabad, where the children lived in a big hall, where they studied and slept at night on ‘durries’. Most of the children came from poor families and had no means of paying fees. While the madarsa manager claimed that the children were being taught English and Hindi, apart from Urdu and Arabic, our India TV reporter spoke to the teacher, whose knowledge of English was pathetic. Children as old as 13 to 14 years were being taught the English alphabets.

This is nothing to be laughed at. It should make all of us sit up and do some introspection. It’s not the mistake of children. They lack good teachers and are deprived of proper learning material. Normally, children dream of becoming a doctor, engineer, a scientist or a bureaucrat, but when our reporter spoke to most of them, they said, they wanted to become ‘qazi’, ‘hafeez’, ‘mufti’ or ‘maulana’.

In another madarsa in Meerut, the rooms were satisfactory, there were windows, and children had desks in front of them for studies. But the thrust of learning was on religious scriptures. They were being taught Urdu, Arabic and the Holy Quran. Most of the children were being deprived of subjects like English, Science, Maths and Computer Science.

Most of the madarsas do not have a syllabus or a curriculum, the teachers are not qualified, and the madarsas run on donations. Our reporter visited another madarsa in Meerut. It was being run in a building, built from donations by local residents, there were chairs and tables, there were teachers, but the problem is that the medium of instruction is only Urdu. The teachers get a paltry sum as salary.

My point is: if the UP government wants to collect all these details through a survey, and try to improve the conditions of madarsas, where is the need to object? If the state government provides aid, the madarsas will surely get good teachers and students may get modern education. At the madarsa in Meerut, there were four teachers, getting Rs 13,000 as monthly salary, raised through donations from local people.

I think Muslim leaders like AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi should visit these madarsas and watch the conditions in which the students are getting education. Most of the madarsas are being run in one or two rooms, even in the state capital like Lucknow. India TV reporter Ruchi Kumar visited a madarsa in Kakori near Lucknow, and found that a madarsa was being run in a private residence. There was a room where the moulvi was teaching them Urdu, Holy Quran, English and Maths, but there was no curriculum that was being followed, nor any NCERT book was being used to impart education.

There are, of course, some big madarsas in Lucknow, that are being run with government assistance. The Darul Uloom Firangimahal Madarsa in Aishbagh, Lucknow, has modern facilities. Boys and girls study here. Along with religious subjects, education in Science, maths, Hindi, English, History and Computer Science is being imparted. There are big classrooms where students bring NCERT books along with Holy Quran for studies. There is a big library and a playground too.

When students get modern education, their entire world outlook undergoes change. The students find a plethora of career options before them. The students in the big madarsa in Lucknow were openly saying they wanted to be doctors, engineers and techies. Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahali said, his aim is to impart both religious and modern education to students. “If our daughters move ahead, the nation will move ahead”, he said.

The main aim of Yogi Adityanath government is to provide equal education opportunities to Muslim children, so that they can look towards a brighter future. UP Minority Affairs Minister Danish Ali Ansari said, it is wrong to spread confusion about the survey. “Our government’s aim is to improve the conditions of madarsas, so that Muslim children can get good jobs after education”, Danish Ali Ansari said.

Two points are clear: One, the conditions in all the madarsas are not as pathetic, many madarsas have good arrangements, where students get education about both computer science and Quran. But the fact cannot be brushed aside that the conditions in most of the madarsas are poor. There are no proper classrooms, there is lack of trained teachers and lack of education material.

Two, Jamiat leader Maulana Madni has no complaint about the survey, but he has his suspicions about Yogi. I feel, the ulema having a positive outlook like Maualana Madni should wait for the results of the survey to come out. They should rather encourage all madarsas to participate in the survey. I believe, Yogi government’s intentions are clear. The unaided madarsas do need help to improve the education of children. But, problems begin the moment politics is injected into this issue. When Yogi government issued the order for survey of madarsas, Owaisi, without going through the detailed order, described it as a “mini-NRC”.

Since it was Yogi’s order, most of the ulema looked at it with suspicion. Since it was Yogi who took the initiative, other non-BJP governments in states said they would not conduct the survey in their respective states. Bihar Minister for Minority Affairs Mohammed Zama Khan said, such a survey of madarsas in his state is not needed. He blamed the BJP for making it a Hindu-Muslim issue. The conditions of unaided madarsas in Bihar are as pathetic as in UP. Most of them run in single rooms. A few days ago, a moulvi at a madarsa in Motihari, Bihar was nabbed by NIA for his pro-terror activities. Since he used to come and teach in the madarsa, the local management did not know much about his pro-terror activities. The moot point is: Muslim children must get modern education in a good atmosphere.

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