NIKHIL MORO writes from Mount Pleasant, Michigan: Even though Karnataka’s ranking has sharply regressed this year, the 2006-07 NUEPA report’s silver lining is that our 6.5 million Muslims, the eighth largest population of any State, have clearly been able to access universal education.
Karnataka is 12.23 per cent Muslim, but Muslims’ enrollment is 13.54 per cent in primary schools and 12.39 per cent in higher primary schools, well above the national average of 9.39 per cent and 7.52 per cent respectively. Karnataka’s figures are much higher than those of the other three southern States.
The retention rate in primary school is 91.94 per cent, well above the national average of 70.26 and above that of Andhra Pradesh, but less than that of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. “Apparent survival rate” in the fifth standard is 95.61 per cent, well above national average of 72.73 and above that of Andhra Pradesh, but below Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Political scientist Rollie Lal has suggested in a RAND Corporation monograph that an absence of secular schools forces Muslims to turn to madrassas (Arabic for “school”), which in turn systematically polarizes the religious communities.
The Rajinder Sachar Committee has found that “aided madrassas are often the last recourse of Muslims especially those who lack the economic resources to bear the costs of schooling, or households located in areas where ‘mainstream’ educational institutions are inaccessible.”
So will the relative success of Article 21A for Karnataka’s Muslims end some of the the cacophonous madrassa debates?
It might, except there’s little information available about Karnataka’s madrassas—how many there are, how many are government-aided, what roles they’re playing in shaping young minds. Would it be too hard for Karnataka’s home ministry or the department of public instruction or the wakf board—somebody—to find out?
Perhaps the all-India Muslim personal law board (AIMPLB), which for 35 years has forcefully advocated shari’a as civil code?
The Sachar Committee, whose elaborate report was tabled in the Lok Sabha in November 2006, did not find credible any concern that “education in madrassas often encourages religious fundamentalism and creates a sense of alienation from the mainstream”. Instead the report stated, “Many madrassas provide education that is similar to that provided in “mainstream’ schools” and hence States should recognize an “equivalence” to enable madrassa students to eventually join mainstream Universities.
More famously, the Sachar Committee announced that only about four per cent of Muslims attended madrassas. How did it reach that conclusion? As it happens, using reasoning that was a bit less than convincing.
Here is a quick scrutiny of its key madrassa findings.
# “Nationally 4 per cent of 7-16 year-old Muslims attend madrassas“ (p 75-76).
Problems: The report cites not any primary data source but a shared bar chart with “provisional” estimates by the National Council for Appplied Economics Research (NCAER) and/or the National Council for Education, Research and Training (NCERT), whose separate surveys had produced inconsistent numbers (particularly for northern India). There’s no explanation of any round-offs. Later on p. 293, a 2002 NCERT estimate for Karnataka is cited to state, rather counter-intuitively, that only 14,500 students attend madrassas (7,188 boys and 7,312 girls).
# “NCAER figures . . . indicate that only about 4 % of all Muslim students of the school going age group are enrolled in madrassas. At the all-India level this works out to be about 3% of all Muslim children of school going age“ (p 77).
Problem: No citation or appendix to support the “NCAER figures.” The vagueness is a bit confounding—there is no indication that the “NCAER figures” were for any specific State or States for the second sentence to make any sense.
# “The NCAER data is supported by estimates made from school level NCERT (provisional) data; which indicate a somewhat lower level of 2.3 % of Muslim children aged 7-19 years who study in madrassas. The proportions are higher in rural areas and amongst males.“ (p 77)
Problem: Hard to make sense of this one. What does “supported” mean? If it means the NCAER data is reflected in the provisional NCERT data, then that is simply not true from the charts on page 76.
# In addition, another 4 per cent of 7-19 year olds are in maktabs, or Quran-teaching schools often attached to mosques that Muslim children can attend part-time. The report says, “Local maktabs provide not a substitute, but a supplementary educational service.“
Problem: Again, no source cited.
# “Combining the estimates of madrassas and maktabs only 6.3% of all Muslim children study in any form of madarsas. This is a far cry from the 10% that is often cited by academics.“ (p 78)
Problems: There is inadequate explanation of the 6.3 per cent; presumably the age group 7-16 statistic and 7-19 statistic were merged. It is unclear which academics the report is referring to, unless they’re some or all of those footnoted on page 77.
# “About 70% of Muslim children report Urdu as their mother tongue indicating that Urdu is an important medium of instruction in Karnataka schools.“ (p 83)
Problem: Fallacious conclusion.
# “Seventy-seven per cent of schools which “impart primary level education in a minority language are of Urdu medium“ (Quoting data from Karnataka’s department of education) (p 83)
Problem: The large number of enrollees in possibly exclusively Muslim-oriented schools is not even considered a variable to assess any “sense of alienation from the mainstream.” On the contrary, the Committee’s view is rather insipid: “The non-availability of education in the Urdu language is seen by some as one of the reasons for the low educational status of Muslims in India.” (p 79)
Even accepting the Sachar Committee’s confidence the issue is not so much what the madrassas do but why the perception persists that they’re secretive.
For example in Karnataka, their number, never announced, was considerable enough in 2002 for the government to propose a board to oversee their curriculum. But the madrassas let go that chance to emerge from the communal shadow on the AIMPLB’s advice to not register with the government.
Presumably, the AIMPLB feared that scrutiny might pre-empt creating new rural madrassas. Last year the AIMPLB nixed a similar proposal from the national commission for minority educational institutions (NCMEI) to set up a CBSE-style central madrassa board which would have funded labs and libraries and got for teachers salaries on a par with government school teachers.
Why should we be interested in madrassas? Muslims’ emancipation is clearly on our national agenda, the latest evidence of which is the Prime Minister’s controversial 15-point program.
Meanwhile, here’s a little of what we know of Karnataka’s madrassas:
# A madrassa is where young Muslim pupils are tutored for free, with free books and often free lodging, in the hadith or fiqh rather than in grammar, philosophy or science. A maktab is a part-time Quranic school usually attached to a mosque.
# Karnataka’s earliest madrassas might date to the 350-year Bahmani rule starting mid-14th century; Muhammad II possibly established the first one in Bidar or Gulbarga around AD 1390. Nearly a hundred years later, the learned vazir Mahmud Gavan is said to have set up many more.
# In the late Mughal period of the mid-17th century until Independence madrassas “served as a nursery of the civil service,” (p. 39) contributing, for example, Emperor Aurangzeb’s judges according to Saiyid Naqi Husain Jafri.
# The Deobandis, the more orthodox and influential of India’s 110 million Sunnis, do not consider India as dar-ul-harb (“land of war”) where a lack of Islamic rule has created immorality and anarchy. In the past they have supported neither Afghanistan’s Taliban nor Pakistan’s Deobandi movement.
# The Bangalore-based sociologist Yoginder Sikand in 2005 posited that Indian madrassas had no connection with Islamic militancy but provided a deficient education. Delhi-based historian Mushirul Hasan has written similarly.
# Some of Karnataka’s madrassas in 2006 were reported to be involved in secular philanthropy.
Churumuri readers might want to discuss madrassas’ influence on cultural purity, identity, and assimilation, all in a context of Muslims’ relative progress in elementary education.
Photograph: Afghan boys at a madrassa in Kabul. Courtesy Shah Marai/ Agence-France Presse
Also read: Yella not OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning
I dont get this article. The Sachar report is one of the most communally divisive article ever framed in post war India. It even called for the armed forces to be divided based on religion. I am amazed that churumuri bases an article based on the Sachar report. Shameful.
Any government support to reform these madrasas are welcome. IMHO the AIMPLB should be carefully watched as its interests are frighteningly medieval.
I can imagine our own ‘garden’ Muslims going around saying, “Kya AIMPLB ko reform karthi so? Woh nahee hotha. Aisaeech rehendhey.”
(I am not able to figure out what exactly this article is trying to convey)
there’s little information available about Karnataka’s madrassas—how many there are, how many are government-aided, what roles they’re playing in shaping young minds. Would it be too hard for Karnataka’s home ministry or the department of public instruction or the wakf board—somebody—to find out?
People are innocent until proven guilty. If any particular madrasa has been found to do illegal stuff, they should be punished appropriately. But the burden of proof rests on the judiciary and not the other way round.
Beyond that, it’s a free country. People should be allowed to run whatever kind of schools they want.
The author has not suggested anyone is “guilty” of anything!! The author has analysed the Sachar Committee’s report, which is of interest to society as a whole. It is a relevant analysis because in the last few days terrorist camps have been found in Karnataka:
The public has a right to information. Why should information about madrassas be excluded? The writer is calling for more transparency which in the long run is good not just for our society but specifically for Muslims too. How can you not agree?!
Yes I agree with Pramod Biligiri “If any particular madrasa has been found to do illegal stuff, they should be punished appropriately ” but the big question who has the guts or the political will to find if they are doing any thing illegal ????
Before we even get into Madrassas, let us first focus on the ticking time bomb called Nazarbad. Who knows, there may be Madrassas in Nazarbad, Udayagiri and other such places.
what ? what about Nazarbad? plse tell
Tell us more about Nazarbad and its madrasas. Your dark hints at sinister forces remain very opaque to us. Thank you.
I’m not sure how many of you actually know that Nazarbad’s muslim population is 98% as per a 2004 census. I have personally driven half-way and back through its streets back in the day and wondered if this was Mysore or some remote islamic township from Pakistan. There was the expected assortment of bhurkha-clads, beards, prayer caps, qurans, stale attar…
I rest my case.
Visit My New Blog on Indian Madrasas:
This blog aims to broaden the debate on madrasas in
India (and South Asia, more generally), by focussing,
in particular, on the voices of reformist Indian
ulema. Contrary to media depictions, a large number of
Indian ulema are indeed in favour of certain reforms
in the madrasas so as to make them serve their task as
centres of Islamic instruction and guidance more
These voices are rarely, if ever, heard in the
so-called ‘mainstream’ press, one reason being that
many of these ulema write and speak Urdu, not English.
This blog seeks to provide a platform for their voices
to be heard beyond their restricted audience.
The same is true of Shivajinagar area in Bangalore and old city in hyderabad. So what is the solution here, cordon off the area and build a wall around it :)
Basavangudi, Malleswarm is full of Brahmins, priest, temples, RSS shakas, lathi training…….Wonder what are they training for???.
On a serious note, there is need for inclusion of subjects that trains these boys for emplyment beyond religious duty.
The shrill cry of abolishing, or turning it into another morern school is not the answear. there is and always will the need of religious education, but not exclusive of each other.
any ideas on the sudden increase in jihadi activities amongst KA muslims? that too doctors and all. weapons training and what not. kalghatgi forests. any of you visited that place? such an innocent little place it was.
what has has happened that people have to train with uber advanced imported weapons?
mane-maseedi-oota-tindi-odu-baraha-pustka-pennu-hendti-makkaLu yaavdakke kammi ee doctrugaLige?
well,Islam is church and state.It needs political power also.It asks to eliminate idolters and infidels(both are same!).
Koran is unlike any holy books is full of violence.
Madrassas promote terrorisms.those calling “Bank” also should be stopped.