In the backdrop of the four madrasas bulldozed in the state of Assam, Syyed Mansoor Agha examines the survey of madrasas the Government of Uttar Pradesh has initiated, and notes the concerns of the community leaders in this regard.
In a hurried move, the Government of Uttar Pradesh on August 31 issued a government order (GO) instructing all DMs to constitute committees under ADMs by September 9, and to survey all unregistered Madrasas in the district. The committees will be required to submit their reports to respective ADMs by October 5. In turn, the ADMs will furnish consolidated reports to the DMs by October 10 and the same will be shared with the government by October 25.
THE SURVEY AND ITS ALIBI
The survey will cover details of each Madrasa, including name and address, whether being run by an individual or under some institution. The number of teachers employed and students enrolled; the curriculum being taught; status of the building, whether owned by Madrasa or rented; type of furniture used therein. Availability of drinking water, toilets, electricity, etc. are also included in the questionnaire. Since most of the Madrasas are residential, information about boarding facilities and food served may also be collected.
Notably, the madrasas are not provided with state assistance of any type, not even the facility of mid-day meals, though most of the Madrasa students come from very poor families and the scheme is aimed to make nutrition available to the poor students.
Citing some reports of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, Chairman of UP Madrasa Education Council, said, “We do not have the numbers of madrasas functioning without our recognition. When a violation of child rights takes place, fingers are pointed at the government. We want to know the availability of essential facilities for children as per the NCPCR rules.”
THE REAL INTENT
He did not explain why other data is being collected. Secondly, the violation of Child rights is not a phenomenon of Madrasas but rampant all around. Why indicate only Madrasas? Want to show them in a bad light?
However, he expressed the intention to “formulate new rules for granting recognition to such madrasas after going through the findings of the survey.” It shows the real intent behind the survey may also be to facilitate interference in Madrasas by way of ‘registration’.
The Chairman did not indicate if the Government be pleased to provide sufficient funds to update the status of Madrasas to the required level.
CAUSE OF CONCERN
The way in which the order has been issued, with urgency to complete the process within 55 days, creates doubts about the intentions, particularly because of the anti-Muslim rhetoric and attitude of the leaders in power and especially in the wake of bulldozing policy to demolish structures for non-verified reasons. Recent reports of bulldozing four madrasas in Assam have deepened the concerns.
ALLAYING THE FEARS
Allaying the community’s fears, the Minister of State for Minority Welfare Danish Azad Ansari said: “There is no deficit of trust in government; the apprehensions are unfounded.” He said, “The survey is ordered under the directions of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.”
Mr. Azad alleged, “Several instances have been reported where the children in the madrasas were chained and tortured.” He did not elaborate it any further. If there are complaints of ‘torturing’ the students, it is the duty of the police to act. Why the Survey?
Soon he added, “The data collected by the survey will be useful for making plans for the modernisation of the madrasas.” In an interview to India Today, Mr. Azad stressed, “Survey is necessary for the progress of Muslim youth and it is not right to question its intentions.”
He also assured, “There will be no interference in madrasas. The government is only trying to connect them with its schemes.” The question naturally arises, why the BJP government wants to connect unwilling Madrasas with its schemes? And why interested in the so-called “modernisation” of religious educational institutions of Muslims only while the condition of the schools as well as the Madrasas under its wings is quite awful? UP Madrasa Education Council Chairman Mr. Javed acknowledged, “In all 16,513 madrasas are registered in UP. Out of them only 560 get grants (in the name of modernisation) from the state government.”
He also revealed, “In 2018, data of registered Madrasas was collected through an online portal and it was found that around 2,500 to 3,000 registered madrasas exist only on the papers.”
In this situation, will it not be fitting that the government should set first its house in order? Grant sufficient funds to willing registered madrasas to develop infrastructure per set standards and to pay salaries to the staff per official pay scales. Instead of improving the paraphernalia of schools under its control, expressing concern about private Muslim religious institutions is ridiculous and smells intrigues.
This is why the community is suspicious about the real intent behind this survey. To discuss the issue Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind held a consultative meeting of the Madrasa Managers in Delhi on September 6. The speakers expressed anguish and alarmed if the state government is intending to project the madrasas in a bad light to further its political agenda. However, they did not oppose the survey as it is legally valid. They expressed their readiness to face and cooperate in the exercise. This sheds some light on the transparency in Madrasas’ functioning.
The host of the meeting, Maulana Mahmood Madani blamed that the minority community is being looked at in suspicion. He stressed that the government should have taken Muslim organisations into confidence before ordering the survey. During the meeting, participants were briefed how to respond the questionnaire. They were also advised to maintain their accounts properly.
Obliquely mentioning probable shortcomings, the managers were assured of the help of the community and assistance of the newly set-up “Steering Committee” in streamlining any fallacy.
Contrary to the standard position of Madrasas not to accept Government funding, which comes with state intervention, many participants looked eager for the funding. They called for funds to modernise the system and improve infrastructure. A gentleman also warned if needed, will knock on the doors of the courts and will protest.
In Lucknow, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, Rector of Darul Uloom, Farangi Mahal, pointed out, “Almost every mosque has a maktab or madrasa.” It may be noted in Deoband alone there are more than 100 Madrasas. Maulana Sufiyan Nizami, spokesperson of Darul Uloom Farangi Mahal, said, “If there is apprehension about the survey, a discussion is necessary.”
In Bareilly, Maulana Shahabuddin Razavi doubted the intention of the UP Govt. He is an eminent Islamic scholar and Gen. Secretary of Tanzeem Ulma e Islam, attached to the Aala Hazrat shrine. He expressed his suspicion, about whether the Govt. wants to disrupt the functioning of around 15,000 Madrasas, running independently with community donations or Zakat Funds. He rejected the oft-repeated allegation that Madrasas are teaching militancy. Instead, he said many Madrasas also include courses in English, Maths, Social and Computer Sciences along with Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, Persian, and Islamic Education. In some of them, other technical courses are also available depending upon their financial availability. Maulana Razavi expressed his dismay over bulldozing four buildings of Madrasas in Assam.
Another Bareilvi scholar Maulana Ishtiaq Ahmed Qadri was of the opinion, “Madrasas have nothing to gain and everything to lose. The experience of the government regarding madrassas has not been good before, so it is difficult to believe. When the government is making schools private, why is it asking questions of madrassas,” he added.
WHY MUSLIM MADRASAS?
Prof. Saleem Engineer, the Vice President of JIH, welcomed the state’s willingness to improve Madrasas’ conditions, but said, “Before furthering such a noble cause, the community should have been taken in confidence. Otherwise, the adventure is bound to be suspicious.”
Talking to Hindi Daily Amar Ujala, he pointed out that there are thousands Govt. schools in UP devoid of essential facilities like safe classrooms, supply of drinking water, and facilities like toilets, etc. He said, if Government’s intention is clear, it should step in to improve the conditions in its own schools which will benefit students of all communities.
He asked, “Despite such poor conditions of state schools, why the government is interested only in madrassas, where children from only the Muslim community are imparted mainly their religious knowledge? This is why this move of UP Government raises doubts.”