The hidden agenda comes to the fore? Even world-famed 154-year-old Darul Uloom not spared

Abdul Bari Masoud reports how madrasas in the State of Uttar Pradesh are being ‘targeted’ in the name of modernisation of madrasas since the initiation of a controversial survey of madrasas in the State.

The controversial madrasa survey in Uttar Pradesh has now been proved to be a political one after the BJP-led state government gave officials orders to take “as per law” action against “unrecognised” madrasas. Earlier, the state government had insisted that the survey’s sole purpose would be to raise the standard of education provided in madrasas.

Even the 154-year-old, well-known Darul Uloom Deoband is described in the survey report as an “illegal” madrasa. The administration of the Darul Uloom Deoband and religious scholars are incensed at this designation. After the survey, the Minority Welfare Department labelled them as “illegal,” and they filed a vehement protest with the state government. They demanded that the authorities should rectify “the wrong message that has gone out.”

Muslim organisations and leaders alleged that the survey’s deceptive, covert Hindutva agenda-related intentions had come to light.

Ashraf Usmani, the Islamic seminary’s spokesperson, said they had lodged a formal objection with the state administration against the district officials’ designation of Darul Uloom as “illegal” in the survey report.

“Darul Uloom is registered under the Societies Registration Act, and both religious and modern education is imparted here as envisaged in the Constitution of India. There is no question of it being illegal,” Usmani told Radiance.

The UP Madrasa Education Board also came out in support of the Islamic seminary, saying such a wrong message is being circulated in the world.

It is regrettable that this kind of message is being conveyed, said board chairman Iftikar Ahmad Javed. Over 4,000 madrasas across the country are affiliated with Darul Uloom, an Islamic university. It is recognised as a society under the Societies Act and it propagates religious philosophy and ideology to half the Muslims of the world called Deobandis. ‘Unrecognised’ is not synonymous with illegal.”

However, Maulana Niyaz Ahmad Farooqi, Jamiat Ulema Hind (M) leader and convener of Madrasa Steering Committee (formed after the announcement of survey), claimed that referring to Darul Uloom as an “illegal madrasa” is a pro-Hindutva media deception because the survey report used the term “unrecognised” instead of “illegal” to describe madrasas.

While speaking with Radiance, he noted that the Indian Constitution does not contain any provisions requiring the registration of any madrasa. Madrasas are run under the registered trusts or societies, he underlined.

Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali echoed Farooqi’s remarks and said: “There is no question of legality in this situation. One of three ways can a madrasa run its operations. Either it is registered under the Societies Act or Trust Act, or it functions in accordance with the mandate granted to minorities under Article 30 of the Indian Constitution. The three laws originate entirely within India. Maulana Mahali, the Imam of Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow and an executive member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, added that Darul Uloom Deoband provides free education, boarding, and housing for kids from underprivileged social groups. They cover all costs out of pocket. It is not dependent on funding from governmental bodies.”

It should be noted that Bharat Lal Gaur, the district minority welfare officer in Saharanpur, had stated that “Even Darul Uloom is not registered with the UP Madrasa Board and therefore it is not recognised, and students of the seminary cannot avail themselves of government schemes and scholarships.”

Saharanpur and Deoband are both included in the district, and according to Gaur, 306 of the 754 madrasas registered there are not recognised.

“An investigation was conducted based on specifications provided by the Administration, such as the madrasa’s founding year, its operating society, name, and its source of funding,” Gaur said and added, “Whatever action the administration takes, a complaint will be made based on that action.”

A state-wide survey of madrasas, or schools that teach Islamic religious education was ordered by the state government in September.

According to the survey report that District Magistrates provided to the state government, throughout the state, around 8,441 privately-run, unrecognised, and unregistered madrasas have been found. It is not the final list of ‘unrecognised’ madrasas which will be released only after all the district magistrates submit their reports. The survey based on a 12-point questionnaire was started on September 10 in 75 districts of the state.

A government spokesman claims that Gorakhpur has 150 unofficial madrasas; Lucknow, Azamgarh, Varanasi, and Mau each has 100, while Aligarh has 90, Kanpur 85, Prayagraj 70, and Agra 35 such madrasas. The highest number of ‘unrecognised’ madrasas was found in Moradabad district.

The survey is being done to provide recognition to ‘unrecognised’ madrasas once they meet the government mandated requirements.

Dharampal Singh, the State’s Minister for Minority Welfare, Muslim Waqf, and Haj, claimed to have ordered department staff to post a list of all madrasas that are not officially recognised on the department portal and the MELA app so that parents can get accurate information about any given madrasa and avoid sending their kids to misleading institutions by sending them to the wrong schools.

The ministry reported that 8,441 ‘unrecognised’ madrasas with roughly 7,64,164 pupils enrolled, including both boys and girls, were found during the survey.

“These children are the future of our nation, and it is essential that they have access to modern education to guarantee that they are linked with mainstream society,” he said, adding that the department had also been able to determine the ways of funding for the unrecognised madrasas, and in the majority of cases, contributions and Zakat were the main sources of support.

Singh instructed officials to act so that minority community children might receive an education in accordance with the new education rules.

The Minister also warned that ‘unrecognised’ madrasas should be subject to legal action, and a presentation outlining every unrecognised madrasa that has so far been detected must be made.

The survey report would be presented before Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the coming days.

Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, Chairman, Board of Madrasa Education, stated that teams in 75 districts had assessed 7,500 such madrasas by October 20. However, it may take some time to determine the precise figures.

“In Uttar Pradesh, there are 16,513 recognised madrassas, out of which 560 are given government grants (salary to employees, including teaching and non-teaching ones). There are 350 madrassas with less than 15 students. The teaching staff of 560 madrasas has pay scales similar to those in central government-run secondary schools…,” he said.

It is being said that once the unrecognised madrasas fulfil the government’s stipulated conditions, such as having a classroom, table, bench, chairs for pupils, sufficient lighting, fans, restrooms, and other essentials, they will be recognised by the Board of Madrasa Education.

Additionally, they will be eligible to apply for both teaching and non-teaching employees’ salaries.

As part of the madrasa modernisation programme of the Union Education Ministry, 744 madrassas in the state are awarded funding for shiksha mitra. However, the ministry does not pay the salary of the shiksha mitra or assistant teachers in time which lingers for months. For pay, these teachers have repeatedly knocked at the ministry’s door in Delhi.

There are several factors behind the mushrooming of madrasas in the state including economic dynamics and denial of primary and secondary education to Muslim children in their mother tongue Urdu. Instruction in Urdu medium was banned in UP soon after the Independence in order to promote Hindi.

It should be highlighted that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), led by its new chairman Priyank Kanoongo, initiated a survey of minority educational institutions to ascertain the conditions of these institutions. Although madrasas were exempted from the purview of Right to Education Act in 2012 yet the survey focused more on the Madrasa system.

Then the panel generated a highly charged report that is said to serve as the foundation for the madrasa survey because the new chairman is known for his ideological leanings. The child panel’s report was published at the beginning of the year but except Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Christian organisations, no other community organisations or madrasas did take notice of this mischievous report.

However, Maulana Farooqi candidly admitted that there were many shortcomings in the madrasa education systems.

We are working to address these issues including corporal punishment, teaching standards, hygiene, and providing our kids with modern education so they may confidently transition into the future life, he said.

Furthermore, he underscored that madrasas are helping the government in its obligation to provide education to all citizens and that this is one of its duties.

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