The madrasas (Islamic religious education schools) in Uttarakhand are being flooded with new instructions by the ruling BJP government. In the past fortnight, the state government has constantly tried to bulldoze these madrassas with its directives, be it the installation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photos, teaching of Sanskrit language or registration of madrassa students with their Aadhaar cards.
Interestingly, all these measures are coming up at the time when the madrasas are demanding recognition of the degrees of ‘Munshi’ and ‘Maulavi’ as equivalent to matriculation and twelfth class certificates of the state education board. The Uttarakhand Education Board has not recognised the courses of Persian and Arabic languages respectively, conducted by Uttarakhand Madrassa Shiksha Parishad since the formation of the state in the year 2000.
The state government first instructed the madrasas to install photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The madrasas refused to install the photos as display of any kind of photo or portrait is prohibited in Islam, thus inviting the wrath of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, a former RSS pracharak himself.
Then, the Chief Minister criticised the madrasas and urged them to ‘give up’ their conservatism on the issue and look at it from an ‘Indian point of view’. “Installing the prime minister’s portrait in all government institutions and those being run on government grants has been an established practice,” Rawat said.
Interestingly none but one of the 297 registered madrasas with Uttarakhand Madrasas Shiksha Parishad get aid from the state government. There are more than 500 madrasas in Uttarakhand which run on charity.
The second directive came quickly following a memorandum submitted by an obscure social organisation called Madrasas Welfare Society of Uttarakhand. The organisation wrote a letter to the state government to introduce Sanskrit as a language in the madrasas. The syllabus committee of the Uttarakhand Madrasa Shiksha Parishad was quick in taking a decision to introduce Sanskrit as an optional subject. The state education department then came up with the directive that the ‘Aadhaar’ cards of students of madrasas should be registered.
Hafiz Shah Nazar, who runs a madrasa in Dehradun, said the state BJP government, as part of the RSS plan, wants to defame the Islamic madrasas in particular and Muslim community in general. “Poorest of the poor Muslim students study in madrasas which are run on charities. The state government which has failed to do virtually anything for Muslims or madrasas has no right to bulldoze them,” he said.
Suryakant Dhasmana, Vice-President, Uttarakhand Congress said the decision to impose Sanskrit as an optional subject in madrasas is a joke. “There are many government bodies and even a Sanskrit university in Uttarakhand but most of these are virtually non-functional due to paucity of staff and infrastructure. While Sanskrit is being ignored in its own institutions, how does the state government plan to teach Sanskrit in madrasas,” he asked.
“All these measures are to defame and to put pressure on Muslims and their educational institutions. We are not against teaching Sanskrit to students but there are no means,” said Maulana Sharafat who runs a small madrasa at Jeewangarh near Vikasnagar.
“Even the salaries of madrasa teachers under a central government scheme have not yet been paid since 2016,”complained Hafiz Shah Nazar.