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Volume XLIV, No.49

Use of Madrasas in the Light of Sachar Committee Report

Tuesday 24 April 2007, by Chaturanan Mishra

The forces of Hindutva are constantly preaching that Muslims are being appeased by the government and secular parties. Had it been so the condition of Muslims would not have been as wretched as the Justice Rajindar Sachar Committee has found. According to the Sachar Committee report, 94.9 per cent rural BPL Muslim families do not get free ration, only 3.2 per cent get subsidised loan and just 1.9 per cent benefit from the government’s subsidised food programme. As many as 62.2 per cent do not have any land in the rural areas against the national average of 43 per cent. Sixty per cent of the urban Muslims never attend school and only 0.8 per cent Muslims in the rural areas are graduate. In the urban areas 3.1 per cent Muslims are graduates. This is what the so-called appeasement has given them. Their condition in education and employment is worse than even the Scheduled Castes. It is for the Hindutva forces to think seriously about their false propaganda, which has doubtless annoyed the largest minority community in this land of ours. Under the circumstances in which Muslims exist in the country we have Maoist armed struggles in tribal and other backward areas in many States; and yet, despite such a deplorable condition to which they are subjected, even strong peaceful protests on the part of the Muslims are missing. Secular parties too have failed to take up the causes of Muslims. Even the constitutional provisions for them have not been implemented. Their representation in Parliament and the State Assemblies is decreasing. It is unfortunate that Muslim organisations and the Imams, who raise religious issues of Muslims, mostly do not care to raise seriously such questions afflicting the community as low education, negligible employment, extreme poverty. On the Shah Bano case they rallied in lakhs, but they have never done so on the issue of poverty. At some Milli Council and Jamiat-e-Ulema meetings I had raised this point but to no avail.

The Left and some secular parties are supporting the Manmohan Singh Government primarily to check the Hindutvavadis and preventing them from coming to power; however, even though the Left raises the problems of employees and workers in the organised sector, it has not organised any mass movement against the communal forces. The Sachar Committee report has given an opportunity to the Left to unitedly go to the masses to tell them that if this deplorable condition of Muslims is allowed to continue it would tantamount to suppressing the largest minority community in the country—and as a consequence national unity itself will be endangered.
We have seen how the terrorist movement received a spurt in India after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. We also know that we have failed to do anything substantive after the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Burning Iraq is testimony to the fact that the police or security forces cannot suppress the people. The same experience is there in J&K. We must draw the necessary lessons from these developments.

Hence immediate steps are to be taken for improving the condition of Muslims as suggested by the Sachar Committee, and the measures should be adopted in a way that Hindus realise these as necessary for national unity. The background for such a realisation can be created only through a vigorous joint national campaign of the Left and secular forces. The worsening situation in Afghanistan that forced the NATO forces to go there also makes it imperative to implement the Sachar Committee’s recommendations. We must end the social and administrative discrimination against Muslims and others and ensure that they are brought up to the national level.

I think that the madrasas have a big role to play in bringing about genuine development of Muslims. Most of the madrasas are run with help from the Muslim community. I have experience of some madrasas where orphans and poor boys are given food, clothes and shelter with the help of the community for years. Hindus don’t do anything like this on a big scale. This shows that the Muslim community is keenly interested in getting their people educated. We can fight poverty and backwardness through education alone. It is said that there are more than a lakh of madrasas, and in some areas children are taught in mosques as well. After independence the number of madrasas multiplied. This is a major force available to enhance education among Muslims, particularly the poorer sections. Muslims are very particular that Quran and Islamic culture are taught in the madrasas. Ulemas are quite strict on this. They fear that if they take giovernment help in running the madrasas they will be absorbed by the Hindu majority. However, this trend is gradually weakening. In States like Kerala, UP, Bihar and Rajasthan they are taking help from the government. Government sponsored Madrasa Education Boards are being formed there. Despite this, Hindus in general and government servants nurture a feeling that madrasas are training fundamentalists and terrorists and hence adequate help is not being given to the poor boys. If we want rapid progress in Muslim education then this general attitude towards the madrasas has to change. Simultaneously while modernisation of madrasa education is a must (and Kerala has done a lot in this regard), some kind of autonomy must be given to the madrasas so that the apprehension among Muslims of being absorbed by the Hindus can be removed in the process.

A large number of Muslims strongly feel that madrasa education needs to be modernised, and many madrasa institutions have in fact begun modernising their syllabi and even computers have been introduced there. Madrasas for girls have sprung up. Deobandi madrasas—that joined the national movement against the British—have also come forward to modernise the madrasa education. It is true that the Taliban movement in Afghanistan has claimed to be Deobandi but such a phenomenon is absent in India though individuals were or are sympathetic to the Taliban.

There should be a general system and madrasa teaching should be such that students from madrasas, after getting standard education for a few years, can be directly admitted iin government schools at, say, eighth standard or so. It must also be pointed out that Muslim boys are quite deft in acquiring technical training. If the government helps the madrasas to start technical training centres these will attract a large number of Muslim boys, and as a consequence this development will help the manufacturing industries and repairing installations.

All this can be possible only when the Left and secular forces begin working at the grassroots, contact the rising forces among Muslims eager to modernise the madrasa education and ensure government help to them. The mass of people in this country is convinced that if Muslims, SCs, STs and most OBCs remain backward India cannot really develop; and also it is the national duty to educate them. If the secular forces succeed in using the madrasas in this way an important element of the whispering communal campaign against Muslims will lose its potency.

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