Rajat Sharma

Why Muslim leaders are opposing survey of madrassas

AKBSeveral Muslim leaders have raised objections over the UP government’s directive for conducting a survey of all unrecognized madrassas in the state. The move is aimed at collecting information about the number of students, teachers and staff, curriculum and the affiliation of these madrassas with any NGO.

The survey will be completed by October 5 and it will be carried out by teams comprising of sub-divisional magistrate, Basic Shiksha Adhikari and district-level minority affairs officer. The teams will submit their survey reports to the additional district magistrate, who, in turn, will forward it to the district magistrate. The district magistrate will have to submit the survey report to the government by October 25, the directive said.

Yogi Adityanath’s government has stated five objectives about this survey.

One, to find out how many madrassas in UP are yet to get government recognition, Two, how many children are studying in these madrassas and whether they are being provided adequate facilities, Three, whether the numbers of class rooms and teachers are adequate compared to the number of students, so that children get adequate space to sit down in classrooms and study, Four, the curriculum that is being followed for imparting education, whether the teachers and maulanas are themselves qualified for teaching or not, and Five, the source of income of these madrassas, and the expenditure that is being incurred. These data are being collected to help the government in providing better and modern education to students studying in these madrassas.

The survey to be conducted is part of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s pro-active approach towards improving the education system in all madrassas. Danish Azad Ansari, UP minister for minority affairs and Muslim Waqf, said, maternity leave and child care leave will be given to female employees working in these madrassas in accordance with the rules prepared by Department of Secondary Education and Basic Education. The survey will be carried out as required by the National Commissioner for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) which is concerned about availability of basic facilities to children studying in madrassas.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi objected to the directive and described it as a “mini-NRC(National Register of Citizens)”. Owaisi alleged that the UP government was harassing Muslims in the state. He said, some madrassas are under the UP Madrassa Board, and under Article 30 of the Constitution, the government cannot interfere with the rights of minorities. Owaisi said, “BJP hates Muslims. They want to impose restrictions on us for offering namaaz prayers, they want to restrict us from reading the Holy Quran. That is why madrassas are being targeted. This is nothing but a mini-NRC.”

However, NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanoongo rebutted Owaisi’s argument. He said, “Owaisi is lying and misleading minorities. He is playing with the rights of children. Government has every right to find out the conditions of children studying in unrecognized madrassas. Over 1.1 crore Muslim children are studying in unmapped and unrecognized madrassas across India. Article 30 is not applicable here because government is the custodian of the rights of children who are out of school. UP government has every right to collect data on children studying in unrecognized madrassas”.

Union Minister Giriraj Singh said, such a survey of madrassas should be carried out in the whole of India. “Modiji wants to modernize education in madrassas, but leaders like Owaisi are creating obstacles. These leaders want Muslim children to stay away from modern education, study Islamic scriptures only and continue to be their slaves”, Singh said.

Owaisi said, Muslims have remained backward not because of madrassas but because of neglect and indifference on part of the government over the years. “In madrassas, we try to make our children responsible citizens. Let the government conduct survey of only those madrassas which get assistance from the state. Why is it surveying private madrassas? On one hand, there are no teachers in government schools, and the buildings are in a dilapidated condition, teachers do not get salaries on time, but the UP government, instead of focussing on such issues, is trying to harass madrassas”, Owaisi said.

UP Madrassa Board chief Iftikhar Ahmed Javed reacted: ‘What is there to object if the government wants to improve the conditions of madrassas? Modiji wants every Muslim child to have a computer in one hand and the Quran in the other”, Javed said.

In Mumbai, the Islamic radical outfit Raza Academy’s chief Maulana Saeed Noori objected to the survey, saying “if the government wants to give recognition to all madrassas, let it do so, but the fact is that the government does not want to help the madrassas. It wants to communalize the atmosphere”.

Maulana Masood Madni of Darul Uloom, Deoband, said the government is trying to communalize the issue. “In the name of surveying unrecognized madrassas, they want to prevent poor Muslim children from getting education”, he said.

In Lucknow, Maulana Ishtiaq Ahmed Qadri, principal of Sheikhul Alam Sabria Chishtia Madrassa said, “Muslim community is being made a football, both by Muslim-haters and those who want to do politics by supporting them. If the survey proves beneficial for madrassas, let it happen, but, for now, it appears to be a political move”. He alleged that his own madrassa had completed all formalities for securing recognition for government. “We have been waiting since eight years, and are yet to get recognition, despite fulfilling all requirements”, he said.

India TV reporter Ruchi Kumar met some students and teachers in a madrassa in Lucknow. Most of them welcomed the survey. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had initiated modernization of madrassas after coming to power in 2017. He created a portal in 2017 allowing all madrassas to apply for registration. Till date, 16,513 madrassas have registered themselves, out of which 558 madrassas are getting government grants. Yogi government added NCERT books in their curriculum, launched a learning app for madrassa students, installed web cams to stop cheating during exam inside madrassas and gave Rs 1 lakh and tablet to students who got the highest marks.

Most of the Muslim students in madrassas come from poorer sections of society, and there is nothing wrong if the UP government conducts a survey to collect information about their conditions. I would rather want Owaisi to go to those madrassas that are being run with government assistance, and find out whether Muslim students studying maths, science, computer and English, have stopped reading Quran or offering namaaz.

There is no point in inciting people on a non-issue. Yogi government’s intentions are good, and we should support this move. If only 558 out of 16,513 madrassas in UP are getting government aid, it is a serious issue. This number must increase. The parameters for recognition set by the UP government are strict. The area of madrassa is defined, the size of each classroom is fixed, the number of facilities provided are clearly mentioned. The fact is, madrassas which run in only two rooms, fail to fulfil the conditions for recognition. The state government, after taking note of this, must relax these norms so that more madrassas can get recognition.

There are other issues too, which need to be taken care of. The Assam government recently demolished three madrassas, in Goalpara, Barpeta and Bongaigaon, after 37 persons working in these madrassas were arrested for links with AQIS (Al Qaeda in Indian Sub-continent) and Ansarullah Bangla, a Bangladeshi terror outfit. These people, in the garb of running madrassas, were actively involved in anti-national activities. Some of them, in the garb of moulvis, were teaching Muslim students in madrassas.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said, his government is not against any community, but if madrassas are found helping terrorist elements, they will be demolished with the help of bulldozers. “Our government wants that jihadi elements must not enter madrassas. If any madrassa does not support terror and jihadi forces, there is no need to demolish them”, Sarma said.

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Badruddin Ajmal said, the entire madrassa cannot be punished for the anti-national activities of a few individuals. “Why is the government punishing all”, he asked.

Himanta Biswa Sarma is a tough leader. In 2020, when he was Education Minister, he had got a law passed in Assembly, ordering closure of all madrassas in the state. On Thursday, he said, ‘we are acting only against those madrassas which were encouraging terrorism. “I have met Muslim students in madrassas. Most of them said, they do not want to study religious scriptures, they want modern education and become doctors or engineers”, Sarma said.

No patriotic Indian will ever tolerate any terror activity inside a madrassa. If any moulvi is found teaching terrorist ideology to students in a madrassa, stringent action must be taken. But the government must also ensure that the education of innocent students must not suffer. Children must be allowed to pursue modern education and fulfil their dreams to become doctors or engineers.

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