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Nepal-border madrasas : no iota of ‘terrorism’ or ‘ISI’ activity
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Dr Abdul Bari, Dumaryaganj; Left, Dr Asim Masood, TulsipurBarhni (Indo-Nepal border): Every accusing finger targets them these days. Every second person feels free to label them with whatever he fancies and none musters courage to counter the claim.

It is the fate of madrasas these days. The system that has been selflessly serving the country for hundreds of years, with no financial or any assistance from the government. Its contribution in the drive to alleviate illiteracy is enormous. But instead of recognizing this contribution, it is now suspected for charges that cannot be digested. These remain just accusations and no one cares to substantiate the senseless charges.
Photo: Dr Abdul Bari, Dumaryaganj; Left, Dr Asim Masood, Tulsipur

Newspapers are replete with planted stories about the alleged connivance of madrasas with ISI and their alleged involvement in breeding terrorism in the country, specially the madrasas which are dotting the Indo-Nepal border. Fed up with rumours we decided to visit these madrasas in Eastern UP on the Indo-Nepal border.

We had a feeling in deepest part of our heart that these accusations may be true in some way or the other and that the propaganda against madrasas here could not be without substance.

But we were startled by the enormity of falsification put in by saffron organizations and under their influence by some front ranking security agencies and the home ministry of our country. We visited more than a dozen well-known madrasas on the Nepal border covering around 200 kms in three districts, namely Basti, Siddharth Nagar and Balrampur.

These areas have been house to a number of madrasas for a long time. Most of them boast of histories of fifty to hundred years of services. We also visited some madrasas on the Nepali side of the border in order to get the real picture. Most of the madrasas visited by us were those which are being hounded by our security agencies and police for a couple of years, particularly after BJP government assumed power in UP a decade ago.

What we saw assured us that these accusations are just a bundle of lies and figment of imagination and that the charges are patently false. Nowhere on this sensitive border we could see any madrasas where any sort of even physical training is imparted. The question of arms training simply does not arise.

In areas where there is no government school to impart education to boys, the question of education for girls does not arise. Here these madrasas have not only provided facilities for boys to get good education but also established a number of schools for girls. In areas where there is no basic civic infrastructure these madrasas represent a marvelous achievement when seen in true prospective. It had to be appreciated by everyone who wishes to see the country on the path of progress.

Instead, the recurrent accusations against the madrasas have put their management under severe strain. The steady stream of accusations and visits has affected the functioning of the madrasas, but has failed to dampen the spirits. Maulana Abdussalam Rahmani of Jamia Sirajul Uloom, Baundihar on Dumariya Gunj-Balrampur highway in Balrampur district, says that 'as we ourselves are terrorized by the stream of such accusations, how we are supposed to terrorize anyone?'

From top: Jamia Muhammadiya, Tulsipur; Darul Uloom, Basti; Jamia Sirajul Uloom, BoundhiyarThe Maulana adds that the baseless charges have affected the functioning of the madrasas a lot and have put enormous strain on the management of these madrasas. Maulana Rahmani scoffs at the allegations of connivance between the ISI and these madrasas. He says that most of the students and teachers of the madrasas are not even aware of the existence of the 'ISI'. When asked as to why he is fearful of police visiting the campus, the Maulana said that we have no objection to their visits, we want our institutions to be open and it helps us, but their frequent visits affect the teachers and the students.

The attitude of the security agencies has made the life difficult for the Jamia authorities and put them in a bind. But it seems that the Jamia is not much affected by the agencies' harassment. There are madrasas which these agencies visit every now and then. Some madrasa administration told us that the agencies approach them as frequently as once in a month and even every fortnight.

Jamia Muhammadiya is one such case where the life has been made miserable for the management of the Jamia. Situated in Tulsipur, just a couple of kilometers from the border, the Jamia is hounded by the agencies. Maulana Nisar says that life has been made miserable for them since the allegation of madrasas' alleged contacts with ISI and other terrorist organizations started appearing in local newspapers and magazines.
From top: Jamia Muhammadiya, Tulsipur; Darul Uloom, Basti; Jamia Sirajul Uloom, Boundhiyar

The Maulana says that police and other security agencies frequent the madrasa in such a way that it has become difficult for them to perform even regular work. When asked as to what they want, the Maulana said that they inquire about the students, where they come from. They also ask about the teachers. He says that though most of the teachers and the students are from the nearby villages, these people regularly ask for their lists and addresses. The Maulana adds that these people behave very rudely with the staff whenever they come.

He told us that their main emphasis is on the fund raising by the Jamia. He says that the audited reports do not satisfy them. When inquired as to what is the main source of income of the madrasa, the Maulana said that the fee paid by the students is the main source of income for the Jamia. He added that the fund given by some local businessmen settled in Mumbai is more than enough for the day-to-day functioning of the madrasa.

Dr Asim Masud who runs a madrasa, Jamiatul Banatus Salehat exclusively for girls just across the road, echoes the same. He says that finance is not a problem here as businessmen in Mumbai finance madrasas in their respective villages. He says that the fee paid by around six hundred students, a large number of whom stay in the hostel, is more than sufficient to cover the running expenses of the madrasa as well as the payments of the salaries of the teachers and other non-teaching staff.

The Secretary of Jamiatul Banatus Salehat says that the propaganda against the madrasas is nothing but a bundle of lies that has been unleashed to divert Muslims' attention from core issues of concern and make them feel vulnerable. He says that services rendered by these madrasas cannot be supplanted by any other means. Dr Asim says that there is a consistent effort to malign the name of madrasas in order to weaken their credibility in the eyes of the common man. He says that it is not only Muslims who benefit from these madrasas but even other communities benefit from them.

Al-Farooq is one such example which has Hindu students side by side Muslims. The madrasa is recognized in the whole district for its high educational standards. It is the epitome of secularism and represents the true face of modern India. Like other madrasas it is managed by a group of local people. The only difference is that here students from all communities are enrolled. Hindu students could also be found in large numbers in this madrasa. The management of the school doesn't mind taking students from other communities. 'We do not discriminate between Muslim and Hindu students. All are equal here. We do not mind taking any student as long as the student conforms to our educational standards' says Muhammad Isa, principal of Al-Farooq.

Al-Farooq is located in Itwa, Siddharth Nagar, just 15 km from the sensitive Indo-Nepal border. Not only admission here is open to children of all communities but it also employs teachers from all communities. So non-Muslim teachers are found in an equally large number in this madrasa.

But it doesn't make any difference to the agencies which suspect every madrasa to be a breeding ground of terrorism and anti-national activities. The agencies frequently come even to this madrasa and seek lists of students enrolled here. Even though all the students are local here but still they seek students' list and their full addresses as well as the addresses of the teachers.
Muhammad Isa, principal of Al-Farooq, says that the local police personnel and people from intelligence agencies approach him half-heartedly and say they are just following the orders of the higher authorities. According to him they do the task just to fulfil their obligation.

It is an exceptional case in this part of the world. Jamia Ittihad-e-Millat is just a furlong away from Al-Farooq, but the story here is altogether different. Maulana Zainul Abideen, the principal of the Jamia and other teachers were amazed to see a large contingent of police coming inside the madrasa a couple of months ago. The police not only prevented the students or teachers from leaving the madrasa, but kept them inside the small campus hours after the classes were over. The police party forced the teachers and the principal to sit and prepare a lengthy report for it. It asked a number of questions. The madrasa that was established some thirty years ago was asked as to whether it was built on Gram Samaj land or the land was owned by it and the source of its income. The police asked as to whether any person ever visited Gulf countries to raise any funds for the school. And if any, they asked for his passport.

The local thana is adjacent to the Jamia, but even then the police party remained in the Jamia till the report they required was complete and handed over to them.

What is most amazing is the fact that they did not officially give any receipt of the report to the Jamia authorities. This is done not only in this madrasa, but every other madrasa complained that the officials neither ask anything in writing nor give any receipt of what they received from madrasa.

Only one madrasa, Basti Darul Uloom's principal Maulana Zaheer Qasimi said that he insists every such order to be given in writing. Darul Uloom is a well-known madrasa in this area, so these people could probably not dare to treat it in their creative fashion but smaller ones in obscure parts cannot muster enough courage to ask for such things. It will simply mean more trouble for them.

Madrasas, even on the other side of the border, are not spared. These are also hounded by saffron organizations. It was shocking to hear from the authorities in Jamia Sirajul Uloom just across the border in Jhanda Nagar in Nepal that our security agencies even visit them frequently. The Jamia is situated in Nepal on Barhni-Krishna Nagar border near the no-man land. They also come and pose usual questions they ask in other madrasas in India and seek lists of the students.

People in these madrasas are not ready to trust the media either. They feel irritated over baseless stories being published regularly in all sorts of newspapers and magazines. Babu Fazluddin, who runs a madrasa in Gainsdi, only seven kms from the border, says that mediapersons come and talk to the management in madrasas but do not publish what we say. Instead, they give an absolutely different version invented on their own. Muhammad Isa of Al-Farooq says that once a photojournalist from a leading newspaper came to his madrasa and took some snaps. The same photos were later published in the newspaper as that of a school in Kashmir. Isa refused to pose for snaps for us.

A number of people said that the whole issue has been raised by the VHP and Bajrang Dal. They feel that most of the news appearing in newspapers originate in the offices of saffron organizations. These organizations go even to the extent of filing court cases against these madrasas on non-issues. Darul Uloom in Basti is one such example. Maulana Qasimi says that once VHP people filed a lawsuit in the court and demanded that the property of the Darul Uloom be confiscated and distributed among the people of the area!. Though they failed in a prolonged legal battle, but it shows what they are up to. Their propaganda machinery is always active against madrasas and feels free to air any wild accusations.

VHP's attitude seems strange when one comes to know the fact that a large number of non-Muslims help these madrasas financially. Every madrasa has a long list of Hindu donors. Their names even appear in their published reports giving details of each and every contribution made by anyone. Maulana Shafeeq Naeemi of Darul Uloom Fazl-e-Rahmaniya gave us a list of donors that includes names of several Hindus who regularly donate money to his madrasa.

Muhammad Mahbub who runs a madrasa, Al-Mahdul Islami in Akrahra, Siddharth Nagar near Barhni, says that madrasas face no problem from Hindus. Instead they are ever ready to cooperate with his and other madrasas functioning in the area.

Ashok Kumar, a trader in Barhni, says that madrasas are rendering great services for the country. He says that it is strange that instead of recognizing their contribution in the anti-illiteracy drive there is a deliberate attempt to malign them. Vinod, a school teacher in the area, nods in affirmation. Vinod pooh-poohs the allegations that Hindus in the area feel terrorized due to the existence of these madrasas as propagated by the VHP and other saffron organizations.

Kaleem Ahmad, a BSP leader, says that there is an organized attempt to increase the divide between Muslims and Hindus in the area. He adds that the saffron organizations are going all out to divide the localities on Hindu-Muslim basis. But so far they have failed miserably in their attempt. Kaleem Ahmad believes that the long-held mutual trust between the two communities is solely responsible for foiling the heinous attempts. When asked as to whether madrasas have mushroomed in the area in recent times, he says that though a few madrasas have come up recently in areas where there were no such institutions, most of the madrasas are very old. He says that now Muslims are trying to launch modern English medium schools instead of madrasas. He adds that even madrasas are now trying to follow modern trends in education.

Woes for these madrasas are aplenty. The system that has been giving the most valuable services to the society with no assistance from the government is being senselessly targeted by the establishment and saffronites instead of appreciating the Himalayan services it has rendered traditionally. It is about time we stopped such senseless propaganda and stop targeting a trusted and time-tested system.
Additional inputs and photographs:Ahmad Rahmani
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