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Modern education the key


MOHAMMED ADEEB MEMBER, RAJYA SABHA | Issue Dated: December 10, 2010
Tags : AMU | Gandhiji | Islamia | Muslim University | JMI | British |

After the first war of independence in 1857, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was arguably the first person to advocate that Indians, especially Muslims, should go for modern learning and education. He argued that we needed to be acquainted with modern education as ignorance of it was one of the factors behind our defeat at the hands of the British. And Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a practising Muslim. Now, one and a half centuries later, the Muslims are among the most backward communities of India in terms of education. Who is to blame for this? Perhaps everyone from the government to the Muslim community itself.
The Muslim leaders fought for the war of independence with such fervour that in their zeal they rejected the English language as well, forgetting that English was not only the language of the British but also the language of modern science and technology. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, however, had the foresight to introduce the Muslim youth to modern education and English, hoping that this would prepare the youth to be a productive part of a free, secular and democratic India.
The partition added to the woes of the Muslim community in India with a large chunk of its educated elite migrating to Pakistan. Most of them migrated more for the prospects of better job opportunities than any separatist feelings or in response to the call from Jinnah. The ones who opted to stay back were always looked upon with suspicion. In the perennial fight to prove their loyalty, the community almost forgot to forward the movement started by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Hence, where many more universities should have come up, only two exist as yet – Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI).
The previous governments, too, did not make any effort to help uplift the educational status of the Muslims. And if the government ever tried to do anything the right wing lobby always hounded the ruling party by terming the move as the 'appeasement of the Muslims'. Everyone from the bureaucrats to the politicians are content with simply replacing the position of the Scheduled Castes with that of the Muslims without making any efforts for creating better educational opportunities for the community. The best example of this apathy is the Aligarh Muslim University – a higher education institution built by the Muslims and for the Muslims, that has till date not been granted the Minority Institution status (as eligible under the Section 30 of the Indian Constitution). Minority status will ensure 50 per cent reservation for Muslims and hence will ensure that Indian Muslim students have a better chance to gain modern education. The second such university is the Jamia Milia Islamia, again built by and for the Muslims of India. The university was in fact a creation of the Non-Cooperation Movement started by Gandhiji in 1921. The term “Islamia” was added by Gandhiji to stress that this was a minority educational institute and that the Islamic studies would be a part of its character.
 All central universities have 50 per cent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Tribes and other backward classes and this has undoubtedly helped them improve their educational status. If the government were sincere in its promises to help the Muslim community, the same provisions would have been granted to these Muslim universities long ago to ensure maximum benefit. The Sachar Committee clearly establishes the fact that Muslims in India are way behind the national average and are among the most backward as far as literacy and education is concerned. Had the Sachar Committee’s recommendations been accepted in letter and spirit, it would have paved the way for the establishment of many more minority universities in India.
Granting minority status to Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia would be the first step towards minority welfare. It should be followed by opening of other minority institutions if the government is really serious about improving the educational status of the Muslims in India.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017