M A I N   N E W S

It’s all about control of Deoband seminary
SMA Kazmi
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 30
More than the alleged controversial remarks on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by newly appointed “Mohtamim” (vice-chancellor) Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi of Darul Uloom-Deoband in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, it was sheer politics to control the world famous Islamic seminary that has led to the situation getting murkier.

“The issue would be discussed in the meeting of the “Majlis-e-Shura”(governing council) of Darul Uloom on February 23 when a final decision would be taken,” Maulana Abdul Khalique Madrassi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom, Deoband, told The Tribune on the telephone.

There is much more than what meets the eye in the whole episode. Vastanvi has been associated with the Darul Uloom, Deoband, for the past more than a decade and has been liberal contributor also. He has been a close relative of Arshad Madni, one of the powerful members of the Majlis-e-Shura. Arshad Madnis’ fifth son Habib Madni is married to the daughter of Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi.

The elevation of Vastanvi was an effort by some of the members of the “Majlis-e-Shura” to get rid of the seminary from the influence of the Madni family that has been embroiled in the politics of the powerful Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind and has been acting as power-brokers with various political parties over the past six decades after Independence.

Arshad Madni and his nephew Mehmood Madni are at loggerheads over Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind, a powerful body of clerics after the death of Maulana Asad Madni, father of Mehmood Madni and elder brother of Arshad Madni. Both Arshad Madni and Mehood Madni are running parallel Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind. Arshad Madni is a senior teacher of "Hadith" at the Darul Uloom and was a natural choice as "Mohtamim" after the demise of Maulana Marghuboor Rahman in December, 2010.

But majority of the members of the governing council, including Assam MP Badruddin Ajmal who is also an alumni of the Darul Uloom, decided to give a chance to Vastanvi to give a whiff of fresh air to the 145-year-old madrasa and to check the stranglehold of the Madni family on the seminary.

While Vastanvi got eight votes, Arshad Madni had to content with two votes only. This was seen by the family members of Arshad Madni as an attempt by Shura members to sideline them. Mehmood Madni has influence over three members of the Shura.

It was believed that a faction of the students was also allegedly used to protest against the reported controversial remarks about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by Vastanvi. Being an outsider, since Maulana Vastanvi is not an alumni of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, he felt marginalised after the protests and announced to quit. But after he left Deoband, the massive support he has been getting from the community and the media has motivated him to dig his heels in.

"We will not allow Maulana Vastanvi to leave Deoband who has brought bright future for the common people and students of Deoband," commented Maviya Ali, a former secretary of the Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh and resident of Deoband.

In the entire episode, students of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, have been divided. A faction owing allegiance to the Madni family is against Maulana Vastanvi, but a silent majority of students, who see in him a harbinger of change for good, are supporting him.

"Darul Uloom, Deoband, is being used by the Madni family for their own vested interests since long and they would do everything possible to keep their hold over the institution. But the matter involves future of the coming generations as Vastanvi has impeccable credentials as a forward-looking man who has combined modern education with religious studies," commented Badar Kazmi, vice-president and spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh Muslim Majlis, on telephone from Lucknow.

The Madni family and Vastanvi also do not see eye to eye on the controversial madrasa board issue proposed by the Centre to improve the functioning of madrasas in the country. While Madnis' feel it was an attempt to take away the autonomy of the madrasa and Islamic religious education, Vastanvi has more accommodating approach.

Interestingly, both Arshad Madni and his nephew Mehmood Madni are not forthcoming with comments on the entire issue. But everyone in Darul Uloom, Deoband, whether they students, teachers and common Muslims, are keeping their fingers crossed and waiting for the important Shura meeting to take place on February 23.


Who Is Vastanvi?

n Vastanvi is seen as a great reformer in madrasa education, who, by linking modern and Islamic education, has transformed lives of thousands of Muslims in western India.

n Starting a madrasa from a hut in the tribal area of Akkalkuwa in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district around 30 years ago, the Maulana was able to make it one of India’s top madrasas with over 2 lakh students.

n In Akkalkuwa, Jamia Islamia Ishaatul Uloom, the madrasa set up by Vastanvi, has 15 colleges equipped with modern facilities besides running engineering, medicine, teaching, pharmacy and information technology courses. The madrasa runs schools in Gujarat and Maharashtra and also has 30 hospitals.





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