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Published in the 1-15 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

A sea-change among Muslims

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

The Milli Gazette Online

Ahmedabad: In pre-Godhra days, Bharuch about three hundred kms from Ahmedabad, with a sizable rich Muslim population, had just one school run by Anjuman-e-Talim. But today, it is a different scene altogether.

The community, which had never given serious thought to education, now runs more than a dozen self-financed schools from primary to higher secondary level, besides two Industrial Training Institutes for both boys and girls, several other educational institutions set up in the rural belt of Amod, Palej and Nabipur. 

According to estimates from various sources, Muslim investment post-Godhra in Bharuch district has crossed Rs 250 million. Many more projects are in the pipeline. Plans are afoot to set up two self-financed pharmacy colleges and an arts and commerce college.

As far as changes in the attitude of Muslims to education are concerned it is not onlyrestricted to the Muslims of Bharuch distirct only. A sea-change is visible if one travels across the length and breadth of the state.

Besides overcoming the trauma of 2002 riots, the community is reviving itself with a new zeal, with special focus on education and health. According to people related to education and teaching, investments of several crores have been made in education, which has been hitherto the most neglected and at the bottom of the priority list of the community in Gujarat, where Muslims are economically the strongest compared with the Muslims of other states. 

The AFMI Charitable Trust is running a 40-bed medical centre in Vadodara, opened an English medium school in tribal heartland of Chhotaudepur at a cost of Rs 7 million after the riots. Dr Nakadar Charitable Trust recently set up a school at a cost of Rs 20 million in an interior village of Mehsana district. AFMI’s medical centre, which was gutted during riots, has been rebuilt and expanded. Vadodara also saw the coming up of Memon Home Science College For Girls affiliated to SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. Several professional courses run by Hamdard University, New Delhi are to be started from the premises of the Islamic Study Centre from the next academic session.
Several medical facilities, dispensaries and hospitals have come up all over the state including Vadodara and Ahmedabad, the two most-affected cities of Gujarat during the riots.

Most of these institutions have been set up in Muslim-dominated areas or in mixed localities with a large number of Muslim population. The managers of these institutions said that these facilities are open for the members of all the communities, irrespective of their caste creed and religion. 

It seems that security concerns more than anything else motivated the community to set up educational and health centres in areas comparatively safer for Muslim students. It had become a necessity because many Muslim students were afraid of going to their schools in the Hindu-dominated areas during the riots. Many of them failed to appear for examinations because exam centres were located in high risk areas for them.

According to Prof. JS Bandukwala the new trend indicates that Muslims have come out of their closed mentality despite the riots forced them to live in separate geographical locations. Dr Hanif Lakdawala of Institute for Initiative in Education felt the new found interest in education was a result of the realisation that education is the only way to empower the community.

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