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Prof. Joshi has designs on madrasas 

The Ministry of Human Resource Development plans to set up a committee which will promote the ‘modernization’ of madrasas with a view to foster ‘rational thinking and secular outlook’ among its graduates. It is also reported that the government is concerned about providing standard education in the country to the Muslim youth. It is said that the young Muslim alumni of madrasas are unable to join the ‘national mainstream.’ They are fit only for the posts of imams of mosques or clerks of waqf boards. This scheme will be applied first to the madrasas under government control which follow the madrasah boards in various states. A similar scheme has already been implemented successfully in West Bengal under CPIM rule.

There is a three-year-old government plan aimed at imparting secular and ‘rational’ education in madrasas which are dedicated for imparting religious and spiritual education to Muslim children. The plan envisages to change the current curriculum of these religious institutions by introducing science, mathematics, social sciences and English. The government had initially allocated Rs 10 million for the purpose. In 1997, nine teachers were appointed for madrasas in Karnataka at a monthly salary of Rs 2500 while 15 teachers were appointed for Sanskrit pathshalas at Rs 3000 for the same service. Till date, the ministry has invested almost ten million rupees in Karnataka alone. 

The HRD ministry had declared that any institution getting government aid and in existence for a minimum of three years was eligible to apply for the grant under this scheme.

Sources revealed that some madrasas situated in remote areas in Uttar Pradesh have received official notices asking them to detach themselves from mosques and function independently.

The government, through the HRD Ministry and the Taraqqi-e Urdu Council (TUC), is preparing new syllabi for the madrasas. Among the new courses to be introduced are social sciences and ‘Indian culture’ and both are highly value-loaded under the present dispensation at the HRD ministry. A workshop of TUC and NCRT experts has already been organized for this purpose at Delhi during 25-28 November 1999. There are also reports that the government, as part of a secret project, is preparing a computerized data of the madrasas and the mosques all over the country.

Considerable objections have been raised by community leaders against the utility of this exercise by the government. It is said that if HRD minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is so concerned about the schemes of providing employment to the alumni of madrasas, modernization of such institutions and effecting desired changes in the syllabi of these madrasas, why doesn’t he show consideration for millions of unemployed Muslims youth who have attained degrees from modern educational and technical institutes? It is also argued by educated Muslims that the government has no right to intervene in the educational system and syllabus of madrasas. Only Muslim scholars have a right to do so, they contend.

An Islamic scholar, Umar Gautam who runs an educational academy in Jogabai, South Delhi, expressed his concern over the matter. Speaking to The Milli Gazette, he said that any government collaboration with the madrasas would bring no fruitful results. Rather, it will adversely hamper the very functioning and spirit of these religious institutions.

Syed Aijaz Hassan, a journalist, said that the issue of the modernization of madrasas is not a priority issue. Rather the government should urgently tackle the community’s priorities: removal of poverty and curbing communal riots. He observed that once the government does this, it would start a movement of change among Muslims. 

Maulana Muazzam Ali Khan, principal of the Darul Uloom Rahmania, Sangam Vihar in south Delhi, who had no information about this official move, says that English and other subjects are also taught in his madrasa. ‘If the government is really concerned about the welfare of madrasas, it should recognize them. Without consulting us, the concerned people, how can the government know the ground realities and basic requirements of madrasas?’ he asked.

We contacted the education cell of the HRD ministry but failed to find any official ready to discuss the government’s modernization scheme for madrasas. However, Subhash Chandra of the minority section there, told this newspaper that the work of establishing computer labs in madrasas is on in almost all the states on the basis of state proposals.

The government has been targeting these madrasas in different ways for the last few years. Some time it says that madrasas need to be modernized and at other time it claims that madrasas have become centres of ISI activities. There is no truth in these allegations. Madrasas are striving for an all- round development and betterment of all human beings. The very philosophy and moral bases on which madrasas are built reject such assumptions. 

It is alleged that these allegations are either a product of sheer ignorance or are part of an scheme to sabotage madrasas. Muslim analysts feel that the ‘Hindutva’ ideologists are not wrong to think that these madrasas are solid fortresses of the basic education of Islam. Without subduing them, the dream of the Hindutva brand of ‘nationalism’ cannot be realized. Muslim community leaders are angry that the government has not seen it necessary or fit to share its scheme(s) in this regard with the community leaders and religious scholars since without their agreement and concurrence no such scheme could be implemented in most of the madrasas which are free from state control because they do not accept or seek any grants from the state.
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