October 24, 2005

Madarsas mushroom in Mewat


Madarsas mushroom in Mewat

Abraham Thomas/ Nuh/ Bharatpur

In the last decade or two, the Mewat villages in Rajasthan and Haryana have witnessed an unprecedented growth of madarsas. While such institutions impart Islamic education for "free", it has allowed fundamentalist teachers of western Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to gain access to the backward Meo community.
‘Nuh madarsas provide free food and education for boys. Contrary to the Government’s policy, girls have to pay Rs 250 as monthly tuition fees’

The Meo leaders of the area concede the presence of some outside scholars in big madarsas but the law enforcement agencies are beginning to feel the weight of the "iron curtain" around these institutions.

"The Miel Madarsa in Gopalgarh village is one of the biggest madarsas in the Mewat region of Rajasthan," said Station House Officer (SHO) Lakhan Singh Khatana of Pahari police station in Bharatpur. The classes here are held in a basement and over 3,000 students (both boys and girls) from the Meo villages, including neighbouring States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, and other parts of the country are trained in the study of the Islamic theology and history, he added.

"There have often been reports that girls from other States are brought to these madarsas. There are charges that after indoctrinating them with Muslim religious law they are married off to the Meos" said Bhagwan Dass, a local journalist, who has been around for about 20 years. "There were reports to suggest that the Meil Madarsa is even admitting foreign students, leading to an increased cash flow," Dass added.

To this, former Member of Parliament from Faridabad in Haryana Khursheed Ahmed said, "most madarsas in Mewat have maulvis (teachers) drawn from this region. Only big institutions can afford to get maulvis from other parts of the country."

When asked whether the maulvis from conservative Wahabi schools of Deoband and Bareilly are teaching in these madarsas, he replied, "they may be there but Islam in these areas has remained liberal and would remain so."

"In the past 10 years, madarsas have mushroomed in this region," says SHO Khatana. In Pahari police station area alone, which consists of about 70 villages, there are now about 10-12 madarsas, with two to four new ones being added every year.

"While Kaithwada and Meil house the maximum number of students," he added, "madarsas have now come up even in small border villages of Samkha, Ladamkha, Jodhpur, Gangora, Chapra, Fatehpur and Ghatmika. Moreover new dargahs too have come up in the area, and the existing ones have been lavishly renovated, he informed.

Said advocate Mohammad Mujib who practices in Nuh district court of Haryana, "considering the poor standards of living among the Meos, the benefit of teaching the children in a madarsa is manifold. The madarsa provides free food and for boys, even education is free." However, quite contrary to the Government's policy of free education for the girl child, in these madarsas, girls have to pay monthly tuition fee of about Rs 250."

"Nobody knows what goes on in the madarsas" commented Dr GC Kapoor, a medical practitioner at Bharatpur. "In the past decade, there have been reports of maulvis (teachers) coming from Deoband and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh" said Kapoor, adding, "access to these madarsas for outsiders is just impossible."

In the year 2000-01, an effort was made by the district administration to ascertain the number of madarsas, which have come up in the police stations of Pahari, Kama and Sikri, which mainly house Meo villages in Rajasthan's Bharatpur district. The census also required the madarsas to supply details of students, and their place of origin. The then District Collector had issued strict directions to ensure that the said information is received on an individual basis. But the Meos supplied limited information regarding the total strength in each of their madarsas.

"If there is nothing wrong happening, what have the Meos to hide" opines Kapoor. Such conditions, he feels, provide a safe haven for anti-social elements. The symptoms have already begun to show with the region fast becoming a centre for cattle smuggling, illegal firearm production and an escape route for stolen vehicles.

Said Khatana, "there has been an instance in the past when fake currency notes were seized from the Meo women while trading goods in the market." The Meo links across the border had once come under the scanner, when in year 1999, an intelligence agency of the Central Government surveyed and found extensive calls being made from the STD booths in Meo villages to Pakistan.

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