They Also Serve

Nityananda Ghosh

Madrasa is always in the news, for wrong reasons of course. But the plight of teaching and non-teaching staff of unaided Madrasas in Bengal defies description. Teachers and employees of 234 unaided Madrasas in West Bengal have been agitating for quite some time for their 3-point charter of demands. In truth they have been on a hunger strike for the last one month or so (at the time of writing) at Haji Muhammaed Mohasin Square under Taltala Police Station in Central Kolkata. Three demands they are agitating for are :
i.    Teachers and employees of 234 unaided Madrasas already sanctioned by West Bengal Madrasa Siksha Parsad should be treated as per staff of other government aided schools and their monthly honorarium should be settled accordingly.
ii.   Students, both boys and girls, should be provided with mid-day meals along with other benefits, and
iii.  Unaided Madrasas that have been inspected by the Education Department should get immediate sanction.

That demands are justified is acknowledged even by the concerned authorities but persons in power don’t bother about them, albeit one thousand teachers and non-teaching staff of 234 odd Madrasas have been on a hunger strike unto death since November 19, 2015.

Abdul Wahab Molla, an MA in history, is running the Shyampur Hosainia Junior High Madrasa (Class V to VIII) as headmaster in Mograhat region of South 24 Pgs District. He is to manage this Madrasa school of 132 pupils with 7 teachers and 2 employees. He doesn’t get any financial help from any government authority. Having failed to make their points heard at official level Mr Molla has organised these teachers and non-teaching staff into Unaided Save Madrasa Committee [Unaided Madrasa Bachao Committee]—he is the secretary of the organisation. They also staged two token hunger strikes in July and September to press their just demands. But they withdrew their hunger strikes on both occasions after getting promises from the appropriate authorities. But the promises were flouted in no time and they now nurse a sense of betrayal. Mr Molla asserts that as per Indian Constitution’s clause 2 of Article 30, no discrimination can be made in respect of granting financial aid to the institutions run by the minority communities. What is more there is a High Court judgement in this regard. Justice Asok Kumar Das Adhikari of Calcutta High Court in his verdict said, ‘‘If an Institution got sanctioned that must get financial aid’’. But the government authorities are in no mood to obey Court orders. They have their own laws to follow.

Talmil Shaik, an MSc in Physics, and his colleague Azizul Haque, MA, BEd, run Fatema Memorial Senior Madrasa, Birbhum, with 11 teachers, 3 non-teaching employees and a student strength of 207. They don’t get any remuneration. This just illustrates the depth of unemployment for the educated youth in Bengal. The story of Md Mustafa, an MA in History, of Atrai Islamia Adrasha Jr High Madrasa in Uttar Dinajpur District, is no better. Junior Madrasa means class I to VI and Class V to VIII while High Madrasas are for class V to X. Most of these Madrasa schools have no adequate infrastructure but nobody is listening. The opposition parties just extend moral solidarity support—that’s all. Unaided Madrasa is another face of unemployment and these educated young men who have organised these schools have nowhere else to go.

Meanwhile, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Jaymalya Bagchi of Calcutta High Court on December 9 upheld a decision of Justice Sambuddha Chakrabarti of this Court, setting aside the West Bengal Madrasa Service Commission Act, as unconstitutional last year. The government can frame recruitment guidelines but cannot meddle in minority institution affairs. There are 615 government aided Madrasas in West Bengal. All these legal niceties may further complicate the issue of unaided Madrasas that are in focus because of the on-going agitation by 1000 odd teachers and non-teaching staff of 234 Madrasas.

Vol. 48, No. 25, Dec 27, 2015 - Jan 2, 2016