The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Merit explodes madarsa myths
- Institutions help students, including Hindus, crack JEE

Udaynarayanpur (Howrah), July 27: The search for the unlikeliest of modern-day, home-grown fairytales will end at the doors of some of the state’s madarsas.

The journey that starts from a madarsa in a village, yet to find a place on the state’s map, and ends at an engineering (Jadavpur University or B.E. College, Shibpur) or medical (Calcutta Medical College and Hospital) college in the city might be bumpy.

But it is bumpy roads that the Md Shamims, the Biswajit Brahmas and the Sujay Samantas have taken in their stride to turn conventional theories upside down — that Hindus, too, get endowments from “principally Muslim” trusts being not the least of them.

They come from faceless villages at Chanchol in Malda or Dhuliyan in Murshidabad and, closer home, from nondescript bylanes in the city’s Narkeldanga area.

A common goal unites them: the city’s best engineering and medical colleges, via the Joint Entrance Examination merit-list, that students from “better” schools jostle to get into.

Md Shamim studied for 10 years in a madarsa near his home at Katlamari in Malda’s Chanchol. He then switched to the Al-Ameen Mission for his plus-two. After a year of preparing for the JEE, he has ranked 84 in the race to book a seat in the medical colleges. He is now looking forward to studying at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

Fekarul Islam did his secondary schooling at a madarsa in Murshidabad’s Dhuliyan. He cleared the engineering exam last year but took another crack at his first love — medicine — this year. The result: Fekarul looks set for a place at NRS Medical College.

It is not only brilliant boys that the madarsas churn out, as Shabnam Bano proves. From Shamsi in Malda, the daughter of a tea-stall owner has bagged a place in an engineering college but, unhappy with her rank, is planning to crack the JEE again next year.

Madarsas and “Muslim charitable trusts” are not for Muslims only, boys like Biswajit Brahma will testify. The son of a vegetable-seller in Narkeldanga, Brahma received free coaching for JEE at the Al-Ameen Mission’s Park Circus centre.

He will now be studying electrical engineering at Jadavpur University with financial assistance from the G.D. Charitable Society, set up by Murshidabad beedi major Mustak Hossain mainly for poor but meritorious Muslim students.

Gaur Pramanik, whose father makes beedis at a factory in Aurangabad (Murshidabad), ranked 633 and is going to study medicine. He, too, studied free at the same coaching and was a free boarder at the mission’s Baruipur hostel for a year.

Brahma and Pramanik are two of the eight Hindu students of the mission who have made their mark in this year’s JEE, says M. Nurul Islam, one of the founders.

The Udaynarayanpur campus and the Park Circus coaching centre have, consequently, started attracting the best teaching talent from all communities. Mrinal Kanti Doari, a teacher of physics who retired from a college last year, now comes every day to teach students — many of them studying the West Bengal Madarsa Board-prescribed syllabus — free of cost. So does Sisir Adhikari, a retired Bengali teacher of a local school.

But for Islam, the mission’s real pillars are the Shamims, the Pramaniks and the Brahmas. “Without them, we would not have had the opportunity to prove so many people so wrong.”

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