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UPA succumbs to allies’ pressure on madrasa law
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 3
Stiff opposition from allies Trinamool Congress, National Conference and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) today forced the government to abandon its haste on the passage of Central Madrasa Board law that seeks to “guide” madrasas on the modernisation of education.

Playing safe on the issue, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, who met 18 Muslim MPs to discuss the matter, said the UPA was ready to drop the proposal if the community so wished.

“We don’t want to interfere with the religious education at madrasas. We have now requested the Muslim MPs to propose the changes they want in a month, after which we will take the matter to the Ulemas. We are in no hurry to pass the bill. We will abandon it if the community so wants,” Sibal said, putting the ball in the court of Muslims and saying he was only trying to implement a Sachar Committee recommendation to improve Muslim education in India. Right to Education would also be used to spur literacy among Muslims, he added.

But some UPA allies like the MIM rejected the proposal saying the government had no business proposing such a board as Muslims were competent to manage their affairs. “Madrasas are meant purely for religious education. Only four per cent of Muslim students go to madrasas, whereas the overall literacy is just 59 per cent. The government must get its priority right and give us schools if it is serious,” MIM’s Asadudin Owaisi told The Tribune.

He resisted the bill on two counts --- Section 38, which gives the final authority to the Centre in matters of “national interest” and the fact that the law would open madrasas to government interference. “I object to the assumption that anything happening in madrasas would be against national interest,” Owaisi added.

Even TMC’s Sultan Ahmad and NC members Sharifuddin Shariq and Mohd Shafi sought further consultations on the issue. “Consensus is a must,” Shariq said, while Ahmad cited the example of poor administration of madrasas under the state board in West Bengal to question the need of a central board. These MPs wanted more schools for Muslims than a central authority for madrasas.

The CPM, however, supported the idea so did the BJP though both sought major changes to the constitution of the board, language, definitions and nature of education mentioned in the present bill which seeks to give CBSE degrees to madrasa students to enable them to enter university system and get jobs. Objections were also raised to a provision of the Bill that seeks nomination to the board of members from different Muslim sects. “That would divide us,” said Owaisi; some concerns also came from Congress’ Rashid Alvi.

HRD Ministry has for its part officially asked Muslim MPs to propose changes to the draft law in a month.

Meanwhile, former chief of the now split Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind Arshad Madani today said Central Madrassa Board was part of a global conspiracy to dilute Muslim religious education. In a letter to Muslim MPs ahead of the government meet on the issue, Madani said the move would de-spirit Muslim theological culture and should be resisted.



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