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Published in the 16-31 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Dialogue on minority welfare

New Delhi: Human resource development minister Arjun Singh convened a two-day meeting, on 3-4 July, of nearly 100 people belonging to minority communities as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Jains to discuss the modernisation of madrasahs and other issues at Vigyan Bhavan here. The move is in line with the UPA government’s common minimum programme which promises to provide more modern and technical education in minority educational institutions and setting up of a commission on minority education. 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the conference where religious leaders and educationists discussed with government representatives issues of teaching in madrasahs and how to bring the teaching level at par with the mainstream educational system.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 
speaking at the conference

Two distinguished scholars from Darul Uloom Deoband and Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama Maulana Anzar Shah Kashmiri and Maulana Saeedur Rahman Azmi opposed the proposal of setting up of a national board of madrasahs. Maulana Kashmir said that a national boad for madrasahs would be a bad idea and he cited the example of the state board of madrasahs in Bihar which, according to him, was not achieving its goals. The funds were not reaching the madrasahs and the money was going elsewhere. He suggested that the government should talk to as many madarasahs as possible and elicit their views. If there was a demand for a national board for madrasahs from grassroots level, then it should go ahead. Imposing a board without consulting a majority of madrasahs in the country would not be fair, he said.

Maulana Rahman said that there was no need for a national board. There was already a non-governmental Arabic-Persian board which had some control over madrasahs. He added that "Whenever the government is running a board for madrasahs, the board is doing miserably."

Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor Nasim Ahmad opposed reservation for Dalits and tribals in minority educational institutions saying that Muslims were more backward than SCs/STs. At this lyricist Javed Akhtar protested and said that he should hang his head in shame for having such views. 

Speaking at the end of the two-day convention Arjun Singh said that a permanent mechanism would be established in HRD ministry for the redressal of the grievances of minority-related educational issues. He said that such a forum could either be a separate unit under the ministry or could be a separate body answerable to Parliament. He set a timeframe of four months to draw up an action plan on minority education.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the CPM has laid down the setting up of two commissions concerning minority welfare. One to provide direct affiliation to minority professional institutions with central universities and the other a national commission to look into the overall welfare of religious and linguistic minorities.

West Bengal, UP and Bihar have madrasah boards, but most madrasahs conduct their own examinations and issue their own degrees. In the absence of fixed standards, only a few universities like Jamia Millia Islamia, Agra University and AMU accept madrasah students and that too mostly only in language and religious courses.

— M. Mazharul Haque

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