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Published in the 1-15 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Mulayam Singh’s minority blues

By Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi

Lucknow: When Mulayam Singh Yadav was UP CM in 1994 the state government had outlined some long-time term, although belated, plans for the empowerment of the minorities (read Muslims). The announcement came in the form of Government Order (GO) No. 80 on March 24, 1994 declaring that fifteen thousand Urdu teachers and ten thousand Urdu translators would be appointed in the state within three years. Soon thereafter, Mulayam Singh Yadav government fell and then, for the next ten-years there was a government of the Bahujan Samaj Party-BJP combine, followed by five years of BJP rule and then again a BSP-BJP coalition government. The BSP and BJP are diametrically opposed to each other ideologically but the lure and love of power proved stronger than ideology. Needless to say, all pro-minority policies of Samajwadi Party (SP) were put in cold storage.

Now, there after a decade of struggle, Mulayam Singh Yadav is back in the saddle in UP and the minorities are again expecting that the time has come for all SP promises to be redeemed.

But the issue is that in his third stint as CM, Mulayam Singh is a changed man and since the formation of his government last year there is yet to be any package exclusively for the upliftment of the deprived minorities in UP. Mulayam Singh has turned a cold-shoulder towards the innumerable Muslim issues, especially the educational problems affecting minority institutions in the state.

The grievances of minority-run institutions were enumerated and sent in the form of a letter to the CM on January 19, 2004 and since then four reminders have been sent but the CM has chosen not to acknowledge, let alone reply them. 

The educational issue is being raised by Habibullah Azmi, Secretary, Minority Educational Institutions Association (MEIA), UP which is chaired by Naseem Ahmad, Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

The first problem is about getting minority status for institutions run by minorities. Things were thought to have been made slightly easy as after the order passed by Mulayam Singh Yadav on October 6, 1994 stating that the institutions applying for minority status were to be declared so with a time-bound process with effect from the date of application or may be returned back with objection if any. The minority status allows these institutions to fix a quota for students belonging to the minority.

In reality not much has been achieved since. Only 36 schools have been declared “minority” while not a single high school or intermediate college has been recorgnised as such," said Habibullah Azmi. He cited an example of VMHS Rahmania Inter College, Maudaha, Hamirpur district in UP, which is a pretty unique case. Even after the Supreme Court referred it to the UP government to take a decision in the light of its judgement delivered on Oct 30, 2002, this college is yet to get the status of a minority institution. The college applied for minority status way back in 1981! Since then its application is being rejected on one pretext or another.

What merits attention here is that the apex court had given a very clear verdict on the matter saying that an institution established and managed by a minority is entitled for all the facilities guaranteed under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution whether the government declares it a minority institution or not.
The woes continue as even when basic schools, higher secondary schools or intermediate colleges are upgraded they are required to apply for minority status at every stage even when the registered society under which it is run remains the same! This is despite the government order of October 6, 1994 which contained guidelines which say that if an institution is once declared minority at any stage it would be treated as a minority institution whenever it was upgraded to a higher level.

The harassment of minority colleges is going unabated as despite the selection of teachers for minority educational institution being exempted from the purview of the Higher Education Service Commission, yet such selections are unnecessarily referred to the same Commission causing delay and adversely affecting the functioning of the minority colleges. "The state government should put an end to this unwarranted practice without any further delay," said Prof. Nafees Ahmad of Aligarh Muslim University in Lucknow.

The issue of the appointment of Urdu teachers in primary and junior high schools is still a dream to come true as only 7000 Urdu teachers and 3000 Urdu translators have been appointed so far. The project of giving jobs to Urdu-knowing teachers was a long-due responsibility of the state government because it has been sanctioned by Article 350-A of the Constitution which enshrines facilities for instructions in the mother tongue at primary stage of education to children of all linguistic groups.

"We demand that the recent announcement of the CM for appointing 46,000 teachers in basic schools at least one Urdu teacher be appointed in every primary school," said HM Yaseen, registrar of the newly established Integral University, Lucknow.

Urdu, the language of the masses which developed indigenously is still under strain. The same language is most widely spoken in UP. Article 29(1) of the Constitution says that minorities have the right to preserve their distinct languages and scripts while Article 30(1) provides minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. But the ground reality in UP is totally different as the UP Education Code 80(4) makes it mandatory for any recognised secondary school to have Hindi as the medium of instruction. "This is absolutely unconstitutional," said Shafiq Mirza. What is more surprising is that in primary syllabus the first subject prescribed is Hindi and is called Matra Bhasha (mother tongue) thus indicating that Hindi is the mother tongue. Urdu as a mother tongue is not ever mentioned! This has made Hindi compulsory at the cost of Urdu. "The Education Code of UP for Higher Secondary Education needs to be amended and provision for teaching of general subjects through Urdu medium be cleared at the earliest," said Prof. Nafees Ahmad.

"The condition that the facility for teaching through Urdu medium would be available only when there are 40 students in a school and five in a class is impractical and unduly restrictive and needs immediate abolition and recommendations of the Gujral Committee be implemented with no further delay," said Prof. Ahmad.

Moreover, Sanskrit has been made compulsory in UP from class III to V. This was done under the BSP-BJP government in 1997 with the underlying idea to link students of all religions with life, rituals and ceremonies of the majority community. This is surely against the very spirit of Article 25 and 28 of the Constitution and has obviously made life all the more difficult for a student offering both Urdu and Arabic as now he/she would endure a burden of five languages along with four-general subjects. "We demand that Sanskrit be clubbed with Arabic and offered as an optional subject," said Najma Javed, principal of Abul Kalam Azad Girls Inter College, Lakhimpur.

The future of Urdu Moallims hangs in balance as their case has no immediate scope. Moallim Urdu (a certificate awarded by the Jamia Urdu, Aligarh) was declared equal to Bachelor of Training Certificate (BTC) by the GO on September 13, 1994 but the BSP-BJP government on August 11, 1997 termed them as untrained again and hence their salaries were withheld and their prospects of becoming Urdu teachers seriously hampered. "The CM now has the power to revert the injustice meted to Moallims by the BSP chief Mayawati," said B. Antony, director of St. Antony Inter College.

The hopes to redress any of the grievances have come to a naught and instead, coupled with an undecipherable stoic silence from CM. Perhaps Mulayam Singh Yadav needs to be shown some reality mirror as 62 per cent of Muslims voted for his party in comparison to 72 per cent Yadavs and only 28 per cent of his newfound love Rajputs and Thakurs voted for his party ( 50 per cent of Rajputs voted for the BJP) in the recent parliamentary elections despite the sagging fortunes and the anti-incumbency current against BJP in UP! This is according to the survey conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies published in The Hindu of May 20, 2004.

Mulayam Singh Yadav should be reminded of his once-genuine concerns for Muslims who have always formed the bulwark of his political status.
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