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Can Madarassas be compared with RSS run Schools?

Ram Puniyani

Digvijay Singh’s tweet ‘Madrassas and Sarswati Shishu mandirs (SSM), both spread hate’ (Feb 23 2017) has evoked lot of emotive response from diverse sections. On one hand Muslim groups have taken him on for demonization of Madrassas and other RSS supporters have come out attesting the utility of SSM and criticizing him for comparing SSM with Madrassas which are a den of terror according them.

In India today we have many stages of education going on simultaneously from the Gurukuls, to modern education, madrassa, seminaries and what have you. A new category has come up, which is an amalgam of sorts with added flavor of Hindutva world view. These are the institutions run by RSS combine, who are working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra. These schools aim to prepare the new generation with its version of history, nationalism and world affairs in the mould of Hindutva politics. They have been making news off and on for the content of their curriculum. Their curriculum distorts the history to create dislike for religious minorities and also, undermines rational thinking and scientific temper and promotes the mythology of ‘We have been the World teachers, equipped with all the wisdom and scientific achievements like plastic surgery, aviation science or stem cell technology.’ These notions are being made to seep in the society very subtly and deeply; adding to the foundation of sectarianism which have be part of RSS propaganda.

The side of story is that; in order to fight the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, US orchestrated some madrassas in Pakistan in brain washing the young Muslim recruits into committing ‘Jihad’ and ‘killing the kafirs’ recklessly. This indoctrination in few madrassas gradually got propagated as “madarssas are the den of terrorism”, “they promote fundamentalism” etc. So on one hand, we have the handful of Madrassas in Pakistan and on other RSS run schools which share together propagation of ideas as per their political goals. This got manifested in the tweet by Digvijay Singh, to say “Is there a difference between Madrassas and Sarswati Shishu Mandir Schools run by RSS? I don’t think so. Both spread Hatred.”

Surely RSS combine will launch an offensive against him for his comparing RSS run schools with Madrassas as in their projections all Madarssas are the dens of terrorism. Mr. Singh seems to have also been carried off by this propaganda about Madrassas. Similar statement was earlier made by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of CPI (M), the then Chief Minister of West Bengal. It is unfortunate that these leaders have not been doing their home work properly.

Madrassas education in India has been fairly old. It mainly was sticking to recitation of Koran, learning it by rote method. There is a long history of religious and secular education among Muslims, in India. The Muslim religious education culminated in establishment of seminaries like Deoband and Barelvi, its curriculum was more or less theological. Muslim secular education began with the efforts of Sir Syed, who contributed massively in introduction of modern, rational and scientific education among Muslim. Maulanas of these seminaries were against British rule, supportive of freedom movement and opposed to Partition of the country.

Today Madrassa education is restricted to hardly 2-3% of Muslim children. Mostly poor, un-affording Muslims send their children there. These Madrassas are also in the areas where the reach of public schooling system is not high. Some Madrassas also support the food and lodge for the children which become an additional incentive for poor Muslims to send their children, away from the mainstream system which is inaccessible to them anyway. While not totally keeping pace with the Modern education, at places these Madrassas have tried to introduce subjects like English, Mathematics and other secular subjects. To look at them the way Mr. Singh has done shows the ignorance of people like him about the whole Madarassa system, the diversity within these and particularly about the few Madrassas which did spread hatred. To label all Madrassas as spreading hate; shows the lack of understanding about the deeper cause of genesis of terrorism in West Asia. It is an unfounded generalization.

On the other side in RSS run schools the children are groomed in usual school education and in addition are instilled Hindu nationalist ideology. The demonization of Muslim kings, glorification of Hindu kings, spread of Islam by sword, the conspiracy of Christian missionaries, the unsuitability of secularism for our country, the folly of Gandhi-Nehru in imposing western secularism on India are the regular part of the syllabus of these schools. Additionally caste gender-biases and glorification of nationalism of Hitler and Mussolini are the ground on which these children are raised. It is this combination which makes the students of these schools to look at Muslim and Christians differently. It is due to this that Gandhi and Nehru are looked down by the products of these schools.

As far as the Madrassas where Al Qaeda cancer was given the grooming, they are in few and located in Pakistan. These madrassas adopted a distorted version of Islam, totally intolerant to dissent; promoting violence against infidels (kafirs). These madrassas were supported by the US goals of control on oil resources of West Asia. Their genesis and growth had three pillars: US planning and funding, distorted version of Islam from Saudi Arabia and their location in Pakistan. The generalization came up through vested propaganda that Madrassas are den of terrorism. Few Madaraasa are being equated to whole Madrassa system, so to say. This generalization prevalent in society has gone far and deep that’s what the statement of Mr. Singh shows. The need for differentiating wheat from chaff is urgent and great. While some Madrassas surely sowed of hatred for those differing from their own rigid interpretation of Islam to the extent of doing violence against, most madarassa are centers for Islamic education. SSM’s are the ones disseminating education along with Hindutva political views. The difference should be loud and clear.

(The author can be reached at [email protected])