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Minority panel does a VHP on syllabi

Calcutta, May 26: Weeks after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a probe into madarsas for “training jihadis”, the National Commission for Minorities has done something very similar: it has convened a meeting of madarsa board chiefs across the country and asked them to “bring along” copies of their syllabi.

The meet in the capital, however, looks like being still-born. Originally planned for today (May 26), it has already witnessed a deferment and, as of now, is scheduled for next week (June 3). But, with Bengal taking the lead in refusing to send a team there, doubts are being expressed about the level of participation in the “all-India” meet and whether it will actually kick off.

The reason offered by the commission is different from the VHP’s. It has “expressed concern about the problems faced by the madarsas in the country” but officials here feel the “real motive” of the new panel, recently appointed by the BJP-led Centre, does not differ from that of the Sangh’s.

Besides the timing of the revamp-madarsa call — it comes weeks after VHP chief Praveen Togadia’s statement about madarsas — which is a “giveaway”, the wording of the invitation is sufficiently vague to arouse “well-founded suspicions” of the minority institutions, say officials. Though the commission said it was concerned about the “problems faced by the madarsas”, none of the institutions had actually approached the panel with them, officials here pointed out.

“It is surprising that a body set up to look into the interests of the minorities is echoing an organisation that is perceived to be a threat to them,” said one of the officials.

“That the National Commission for Minorities has allowed itself to be hijacked by the Sangh is evident from its belief that madarsas are exclusively minority institutions,” he added.

West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education president Abdus Sattar, who would not be making the Delhi trip, said much the same. “Madarsas affiliated to our board have a sizeable percentage of Hindu students (around 15 per cent of the total students) and an even larger percentage of Hindu teachers,” he said. “How can they be called minority institutions when they are controlled by the government with an autonomous board in charge just like other schools and colleges'” he asked.

West Bengal Minorities’ Commission chairman K.M. Yusuf supported the contention. “The scrutiny of madarsa syllabi lies outside the purview of the commission,” he said. “There’s already a constitutional body under the state school education department and only the Union ministry of human resources development is legally empowered to look into matters relating to educational institutions,” he said, regretting the confusion over the status of madarsas as educational institutions.

Doubts are also being raised about the “competence” of the minorities commission, comprising only two Muslim members (one of them a former head of a unit of the BJP’s youth wing), to scrutinise the madarsa syllabi.

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