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Bangaru's Laxman rekha
Madrasas and Gujarat police's misguided drive

By Zafarul-Islam Khan

Under Mughals and early British period madrasas used to be run by the state. The first-ever private madrasa established in India was at Deoband. It was established in 1866 by religious leaders of the community, the ulama, who decided to offer the community an independent means of education in the wake of the British takeover of the educational institutions including the madrasas after the events of 1857 in which Muslims bore the brunt of the colonial power’s injustice and retaliation.

Soon madrasas sprouted in all parts of the country as independent schools and colleges imparting religious and secular education to the community (and others if they wished to join in). Madrasas have played a leading role in keeping Muslims literate.

There is not an iota of truth in the recent allegations that madrasas harbour ‘terrorists’ or double up as ‘terrorist bases.’ This bug seems to have been imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The madrasa culture in India abhors violence. If some madrasas in Pakistan have been involved in violence, it is due to the Afghanistan jihad legacy as well as a result of the Maulvis’ exceedingly increasing role in the Pakistani politics. Such developments have not taken place in India and there is no reason to believe that such developments may take place in future.. 

How ignorant are our officials can be gauged from the following true story: A high-ranking home ministry official was among the Indian team which went to Qandhar to negotiate with the plane hijackers in December 1999. There he engaged some Taliban soldiers into conversation and asked them if they would like to visit India?. They said: yes. The official asked: what would you like to see in India? They said we want to go to Deoband.. This struck the official no end and he at once connected it in his mind with the madrasa-terrorism nexus parroted day in and day out by the saffronites back home. Upon his return to Delhi, the official went to a religious scholar and asked him about the relationship of Deoband with Taliban and terrorism. Fortunately that scholar was an enlightened person. He explained to the official that the relationship between Deoband and Taliban is not political or terrorist but religious because due the influence and fame of the Deoband madrasa people used to come to study here from all parts of India (that is including Peshawar in pre-Partition days) and even from Afghanistan since the majority there follows the Hanafi creed followed by Deoband. This is how scholars there consider themselves part of the religious stream which Deoband represents in the Subcontinent’s Hanafi religious tradition. This is a tremendous asset for the country and we can utilize it to gain good-will in many parts of the world...if only we understood things in their right perspective.

Now coming back to the Gujarat police, a Milli Gazette reader there, Mr Sultan Akhtar Patel, alerted us to a facsimile of a document published by the Ahmadabad daily Gujarat Today on 29 August. We asked him to send a copy together with its translation. Here is the translation and the facsimile. We do not deny that authorities have a right to keep such data. It is perfectly within their prerogatives and responsibilities but it is a gross misuse of these rights if the data is community-specific and collected amid trial by press.

DSP Office, Kutch-Bhuj Dt. 17.6.2000
Sub: Information about Madrasas
Ref.: Letter No. D-1-8 M.A./79/2000 received from IGP, Intelligence, Gujarat, Ahmedabad.
Jai Bharat. This is to state with reference to the above that as the information pertaining to Kutch district has been called for as above about madrasas, you should submit the same in the following proforma very secretly police station areawise.
If difference is found in your information and that received from LIB field and police stations action will be taken against concerned which may be noted.
The limit must be observed as this information is to be submitted withing 8 days.
1. Serial No.
2.Name of police station;
3. Name of madrasa
4. When the madrasa was established;
5. Name of manager or organization;
6. Name of tutor maulvi and his address;
7. No. of students;
8. Sources/medium of income;
9. Is it getting foreign aid? If so, name of 
country and aiding organisation;
10. Remarks.
Sd./ for DSP, Bhuj-Kutch
To: Officers in charge of all police stations; 
LIB field constables; cc. for information to Divisional police commissionerss and CPI.

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