NEW DELHI (AA) – An ongoing survey of madrassas (Islamic schools) in the populous Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is being criticized by many Muslim representatives, with political parties alleging that the move is aimed at harassing the Muslim community in the country.
The local ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) recently ordered a survey of the unrecognized madrassas in its jurisdictions to collect details, including the name of the organization running them, location, curriculum, and source of income.
The survey has to be completed by Oct. 5.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Moulana Saalim Ashraf, who runs a madrassa in the state’s Deoband area, said the move has raised concern among the people.
“If the government’s intention was to improve the madrassas, it was a welcome step. But there are concerns that why madrassas but not other institutions like schools, etc. have been chosen,” he said.
He also argued that it was a constitutional right to manage an educational institution if it is not funded by the government.
“We are hopeful that the government would use this survey just to remove any shortcomings. If it is being done for any other intention, it would be resisted by everyone.”
Article 30 of the Indian constitution grants minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions.
On Sept. 13, Maulana Arshad Madani, president of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind – India’s largest socio-religious Muslim organization – told reporters that “sectarian forces have created an atmosphere of hatred throughout the country during the last few years … the Muslims are forced to believe that at this time every policy is coming forward to destroy their existence.”
“Religious madrassas are being targeted by sectarian forces, so we have to understand their intentions,” he said.
An advisory issued after a meeting on Sunday of madrassa representatives held under the banner of famous Darul Uloom, a religious seminary established in 1866 and located in the town of Deoband in the state, appealed to the management of madrassas to “cooperate with the survey team considering it a procedural norm.”
Niyaz Farooqui, secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said Muslims in India want to improve the services of madrassas, but will not compromise on the independence of educational rights.
“These are our concerns,” he said.
He noted that everyone will cooperate with the government if they are doing it the right way. “The real picture will emerge in some time,” said Faruqi.
In northern Uttar Pradesh, which is the most populated state with 204 million people, 38 million, or 19.3% of the population, are Muslims.
According to local media reports, there are an estimated 17,000 recognized madrassas currently operating in the state.
The survey has triggered a political row as well, with the opposition parties saying that it is aimed at harassing Muslims.
An Indian Muslim leader and parliament member, Asaduddin Owaisi, accused the ruling party of “harassing Muslims” and stated that the government cannot interfere “with our rights under Article 30.”
“They just want to harass Muslims,” local news agency Asian News International quoted him as saying.
Top Indian Dalit leader, Mayawati Prabhu Das, who is chief of the regional political party Bahujan Samaj Party, also criticized the government. “The BJP government has an evil intent on madrassas in Uttar Pradesh,” she said on Twitter. “The attempts to interfere in the private madrassas, which run on donations by the community, in the name of a survey is inappropriate.”
She asked the government to focus “on improving the condition of the government and government-aided madrassas.”
The caste system in India divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Outside this are the Dalits or the untouchables.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, a renowned Indian expert on Muslim issues, Tasleem Rehmani, said: “There are two aspects of the survey – political and practical. Politically, the ruling party is using them (madrassas) for its own propaganda. Practically, if we see it will help identify the problems existing in madrassas,” he said.
There should not be any problem with the survey, but if the move is meant to attack the madrassas or shut them down, “it will be resisted,” he said, adding: “Madrassas have contributed immensely to providing education to students.”
Madrassas and welfare schemes
The ruling party leaders and the government have, however, denied the allegations.
Former Indian minority minister and top BJP leader, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, said: “We should not raise doubts on all madrassas.” He added that the commotion on the survey itself raises a question.
The lone Muslim face in the Uttar Pradesh government, Danish Azad Ansari, echoed the views of Naqvi.
Blaming the opposition parties for “false propaganda” against the survey, Ansari said the focus is to connect madrassas with the government welfare schemes.
He said that no madrassa will be closed or bulldozed. “In the survey, there is no talk of bulldozers or closing down madrassas,” he added.
In the northeastern state of Assam, the ruling BJP has bulldozed a few madrassas over alleged links to terrorist outfits, according to police.