Since Priyank Kanoongo became the Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in October 2018, it appears that the child panel is working on a particular agenda and its main target seems to be madrasa.In this connection, the child panel’s latest dictate is to shift non-Muslim students studying in madrasasto other educational institutions. But thankfully it was ‘rejected’ by the UP Madarsa Education Board,which took a firm stand that there can be no religious discrimination with the education of students.
In a letter dated December 8, the Child Commission had directed all state and UT chief secretaries to conduct “a thorough enquiry of all government funded/recognised madrasas who are admitting non-Muslim children”. It had also been noted that all such students should be admitted for “availing formal education” after the investigation, which “shall involve physical verification of children attending such madrasas.” In addition, it had also recommended “mapping of all unmapped madrasas” and sought an Action Taken Report from all chief secretaries within 30 days of “completion of action in this regard”.
In the letter, Kanoongo also wrote that “Madrasas, as institutions, are primarily responsible for imparting religious education to children. However, it is also learnt that those madrasas which are funded by the Government or recognised by the Government are imparting both religious and to some extent formal education to children.”
Kanoongo further cited “various complaints” from “different sources” to say that the Commission “noted that children belonging to non-Muslim communities are attending government funded/ recognised madrasas. Further, it is also learnt by the Commission that some State/UT government/s are providing them with scholarships too.”
“This,” the NCPCR chairperson wrote, “is a clear-cut violation and contravention of Article 28(3) of the Constitution of India that prohibits educational institutions from obligating the children to take part in any religious instruction, without the consent of their parents.”
In the light of this, the panel urged the UP government to launch a thorough investigation into every government-funded or approved madrasa where non-Muslim children were enrolled.
While rejecting the Child panel’s suggestion that non-Muslim children be transferred from madrasas to other educational institutions, the UP Madarsa Board took a firm stand and decided to introduce the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) syllabus beginning with the forthcoming academic session.
The board members collectively decided to do this during a meeting presided over by Board ChairmanDr Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, who made the announcement to the media on January 18. The UP Madarsa Board also resolved to gradually roll out the NCERT curriculum at state-funded and recognised madrasas in the forthcoming session. “Children in madrasas will also study the NCERT curriculum from this year. Along with DineeTalim (religious education), modern education would be provided,” said Iftikhar.
The Board chairmanIftikhar, who is a BJP member, disagreed with the commission’s latest “recommendation,” calling it a discriminatory act that violated the Madarsa Education Board’s principles. There can be no religious discrimination with the education of students.
We adhere to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s philosophy of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (progress and development for all) and would never transfer non-Muslim students from madrasas to other institutions. The education sector shouldn’t use this kind of approach. They will continue to study there if parents are sending their kids to our madrasas, said Javed. The NCPCR recommendations were unanimously rejected by the Madarsa Education Board, he said.
In the upcoming academic year, the Board chairman continued, UP Madrasas will place a greater emphasis on “modern” education, using contemporary pedagogical methods. Additionally, he said that the board would devise a way for easy distribution of uniforms to madrasa students in classes I to VIII.
He even offered:“If NCPCR head has any evidence of forced religious conversion of any student or forceful admission of non-Muslim students in madrassa then he must share input and lodge FIR.”
While expressing his angst at the manner in which divisiveness was being spread in educational institutions through such orders, he categorically said,“We will not allow a divide to be created between Muslims and non-Muslim communities as this goes against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s principle of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.”
‘Lodge FIR if there is forceful admission’.
Replying to the child rights panel’s letter, Iftikhar said, “Non-Muslims are studying in madrasas and non-Hindu children are studying in Sanskrit schools. Children of every religion are also studying in missionary schools. Even though I myself studied at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), NCPCR should reconsider their letter.”
Speaking to reporters in Lucknow, Iftikhar also urged the Child Panel to reconsider its recommendation urging states and UTs to inspect the recognised madrasas admitting non-Muslim children. He asked the panel to adopt a more holistic approach to the issue.
However, Kanoongo described the Madarsa Board’s reply as a ‘silly statement’. He even sent fresh notice to the UP Minority Affairs and Waqf Department, and sought a reply within three days.
“The Uttar Pradesh Madarsa Board had made an objectionable and silly statement that it will continue to admit non-Muslim students in madrassas. Hence, we have written to Special Secretary Minorities that giving Islamic education to non-Muslim students is a violation of Article 28(3) and asked them to reply within three days.”
Kanoongo is known for his connection with the RSS, the parent organisation of the ruling BJP. Since he assumed the Child Commission’s charge, he is targeting Madrasa education. First, he brought up a detailed report on minority educational institutions particularly madrasas under the pretext of RTE Act. He was the mastermind behind the contentious survey of private madrasas conducted in Uttar Pradesh last year.
It is not the business of the Child Commission to interfere in the affairs of Madrasa education andcreate a divide among the students on the basis of religion, said Jeelani Khan, Resident Editor Inquilab, Lucknow. Speaking with Radiance, he questioned why the head of the Child panel had not sought a survey of the Saraswati Vidya Mandir and ShishuMandir, both of which are run by the RSS. He only sees shortcomings in the Madrasa system and his logic of not admitting non-Muslim students in Madrasa is absurd, Jeelani said.
Madrasa teachers’ body also flays the child panel chief’s actions and seeks the intervention of the President of India and the Prime Minister into the matter.
In a letter sent to the President and the Prime Minister, the All India Teachers Association Madaris-e-Arabiya saidthe NCPCR’s recommendations are violative of the Right to Education and go against the spirit of the Constitution of India.
Wahidullah Khan Sayeedi, the organisation’s national general secretary, said that such letters foster “hate and antagonism” in society as well as “suspicion and ill-will” against madrasas.
Sayeedi argued that sending such letters and directives to educational institutions “on the basis of petty grievances and fantasies” and “without any solid proof or evidence” only damages their reputation. Additionally, he insisted that it was wrong to create enmity toward educational institutions based on factors like caste, religion, or community.
Sayeedi has urged the President and the Prime Minister to respond appropriately to the letter from NCPCR’s chairperson, claiming that no student is admitted into a madrasa without their parents’ permission.
Muslim community organisations also extend support to the UP Madarsa Board on the issue, arguing that the students taking education cannot be differentiated on the basis of religion.
Senior Jamaat Islami Hind leader Engineer Mohammad Salim told Radiance thatthe Child Panel’s approach is sectarian and narrow-minded.He appreciated the stand taken by the UP Madarsa Board in this regard.
In addition to the Child Panel’s meddling, the State’s Education Department also interferes with madrasas.
The Madarsa Education Board openly declared its opposition to Education Department personnel meddling in the daily operations of madrasas in the state in November 2022, which created an uncomfortable situation in these institutions. In relation to this, Board Chairman Iftikhar also told the media that the madrasas managed by the Department of Minority Welfare were not subject to inspection by State Education Department officials.
“After the formation of the Minority Welfare Department in 1995, all work of the madrasas, managed by the Education Department till then, was transferred to the Minority Welfare Department.
“As per the arrangement made in the Uttar Pradesh Madrasa Education Board Act 2004 and Regulations 2016, neither inspection nor notice will be given to any madrasa by any officer of any department other than the minority welfare department.”
However, despite Iftikhar’s and Sayeedi’s reservations regarding the Child Panel’s suggestion of December 8 that tries to split children along religious lines, they had no effect on the Commission’s decision to proceed with the matter.