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Muslim education in India: Need for private and public sector investment

These are troubling findings that frame the continuing needs of Muslims and others in the weaker sections. What should be done to address those needs?

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Muslim education in India

Muslim education in India: Eminent columnist Swaminathan A. Aiyar called upon Wakf boards and wealthy Muslims to finance the development of “a string of world-class education institutions” that would attract foreign students and Indian Hindus as well. His article was written in response to Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi’s recommendation for “government scholarships for all” to deal with the “literacy and attendance gaps” of Muslims and other communities.

The proposal was driven by his opinion that “the quality of government schools is so poor that giving more government scholarships will do little for Muslims or any other community”. And, that “Christians have long created their own educational institutions of excellence”.

There is no argument that Christians have created good educational institutions — as have Muslims and others I might add — and that government-supported schools need to be improved. But, a programme of the scope and nature that the article suggests would do nothing to address the very real problem that Owaisi has identified.

That problem is that Muslims and others in the weaker sections still lag far behind those in other religious groups in terms of their development. The development deficit occurs at points all along the educational continuum from pre-school through higher education.

The Sachar Committee Report of 2006 disclosed this “development deficit” for minorities in many areas. The report resulted in the creation of an across the board programme for the development of minorities in India.

Some progress has been made since then but much remains to be done:

  • In the 2011 census, the overall literacy rate for Muslims went up substantially to 68.5 per cent from 59.1 per cent in 2001. The rate for Muslim females was much lower at not quite 52 per cent.
  • A study released by the US India Policy Institute at the end of 2013 states that since 2006, “… the literacy level and the quantum of improvements for Muslims were modest compared to other populations.”
  • That same study showed that only 11 per cent of Muslims in India pursue higher education compared to a national average of approximately 19 per cent and that participation in the “general category of Muslims in higher education” had actually declined by 1.5 per cent for the period studied.
  • The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO)’s 75th round report cited by MP Owaisi showed that 22 per cent of Muslim girls aged 3 to 35 have never enrolled in a formal educational course.

These are troubling findings that frame the continuing needs of Muslims and others in the weaker sections. What should be done to address those needs?

In my opinion, the answer must be a comprehensive and collaborative effort financed and supported through public and private sector investment.

That effort should improve educational opportunity and quality at all levels. Educational literacy should be the starting line and higher education of some form should be the finish line.

For students at the primary and secondary levels, the Indian government needs to continue to upgrade its educational improvement initiatives to ensure basic knowledge, skills and abilities in language, science, mathematics and technology. Although madarasas educate only between 2-4 per cent of Muslim children and youth, they need to modernize their curriculum and move away from Islam centric or Islamic-only education to a holistic approach that enables these students to integrate fully into Indian society.

Higher education should not be solely the province of four-year colleges or universities. It should include technical, vocational and professional education at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

Education in those areas provides avenues for participation in 21st-century careers, the competencies to compete in a global economy, and the capacity to contribute to lifting Muslims and those in the weaker sections out of poverty and deprivation.

I know from my personal involvement that Muslims are already making commitments to assist in providing educational opportunities for Muslims at all these levels. For example, the American Federation of Muslims of Indian origin supports hundreds of schools and scholarships for underprivileged Muslims and others throughout India.

The Duty Society of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has numerous members who have focused on educational development for those in the weaker sections and placed an intensified organizational focus there in 2016, its 125th anniversary year.

I myself have supported AMU with initiatives that enhance higher educational opportunities for Muslims and others including the funding of a new Management Complex, an Entrepreneurship Center, and an auditorium for the Mass Communications Department. At the dedication of the Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex, I said, “From this Management Complex will come the future leaders who will make India and the world a better place. It will be an educational empowerment zone.”

I have had a lifelong passion and commitment to improving girls’ access to and participation in meaningful education. If we empower girls through education, they are most likely to control their own destiny. Education prepares the girl to become a change agent. Too many families are trapped in poverty because of lack of education. With her own education, the girl who becomes a woman and a mother can educate and equip her children to escape that trap. This is why my wife Debbie and I have also committed to support the development of a technical school for women in Azamgarh UP. Those women graduates will make invaluable contributions to making India and the world a better place as well.

Addressing the development needs of Muslims and others in the weaker sections is a strategic investment. It is a hand-up and not a hand-out. Those who get that hand-up will extend their hands to help others up. As a result, the return on these public and private investments will be exponential for the Indian economy and society.

(The writer is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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MP bypolls: Kamal Nath’s ‘item’ remark raises political heat

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

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Kamal Nath

It comes in the wake of “coming from a hungry and ill-clad family” remarks used by another Congress leader Dinesh Gurjar for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

While campaigning in Dabra segment in Gwalior district on Sunday, Kamal Nath had allegedly called Imarti Devi an ‘item’, making the BJP turn aggressive and trying to derive political mileage from the situation even as the Congress accused BJP of trying to misinterpret certain words.

The process of filing of nominations for the Assembly seats, which will go to polls on November 3, has since been completed and both parties are now in full campaigning mode.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that Kamal Nath’s remark against the Minister was symptomatic of “petty mentality”.

“Imarti Devi is a daughter of a farmer who began doing labour in her village and has since emerged as a public representative in building the nation. First, the Congress called me ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and now she has been called an ‘item’. This shows the feudal mindset of Kamal Nath,” the Chief Minister said.

BJP MP and former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that “calling a woman coming from a poor labourer family an item and ‘jalebi’ by another Congress leader Ajay Singh was both condemnable and objectionable.

“Kamal Nath’s comments reflect his thinking towards Dalits and women. Similarly, Digvijay Singh had used such remarks against party leader Meenakshi Natarajan.”

BJP state unit President Vishnudatt Sharma too flayed the remarks as “shameful”, particularly against a woman when the country was celebrating Navratras.

“Kamal Nath has insulted the womanhood by calling the Minister an item,” Sharma alleged.

In Lucknow, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati too jumped into the controversy and demanded on Monday that the Congress leadership should issue a public apology for the remark against a Dalit woman.

She said the remark was “objectionable”. “The remarks made by a former Chief Minister against a Dalit woman candidate in Dabra (Reserve) Assembly segment is highly shameful and needs to be condemned. The Congress leadership should take note and issue a public apology,” the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister tweeted.

She appealed to the Dalit voters to teach a lesson to the Congress in the by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and vote for her BSP to ensure that such incidents don’t occur in future.

On the other hand, Kamal Nath said the BJP was indulging in a “false propaganda” regarding his remarks.

“I did use the word ‘item’, but it is not an insulting word. I am also an item, you are also an item. In this sense, we all are items. During legislative proceedings, we use words like ‘item numbers’. When the state’s people are in a pathetic condition, the BJP instead of wiping their tears is making an issue out of consumption of a beverage by me. Is it a public issue? Are the people’s lives connected with this?” the Congress leader and former Chief Minister remarked.

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

The BJP will not let go of the chance to use the ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and ‘item’ remarks to its advantage by making these as ‘rich vs poor’ and ‘Dalit’ and ‘women’ issues ahead of the by-elections.

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Old hand, trusted by both Rahul, Ahmed Patel, is Congress choice for Bihar

Shaktisinh Gohil has his task cut out as party in-charge for state, but there are many reasons he may be the man for the job.

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Shaktisinh Gohil may seem an odd choice as the Congress in-charge of Bihar, particularly given the uphill battle the party faces in a state where it has been now out of power since 1990. However, there are two things that make the 60-year-old uniquely placed for the job: the fact that he is a veteran of many political battles against Narendra Modi-led BJP in native Gujarat; and that he is among the few Congress leaders considered close to both Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi.

In his over three-decade political career, it is the first time Gohil will be overseeing a state election as an AICC pointsman. His hand is seen in the hard bargaining by the Congress to secure 70 seats in the Mahagathbandhan, a huge jump from the 41 the party had contested in Bihar in 2015.

A veteran in Gujarat politics, Gohil first entered the national stage in 2014, when he was made a Congress spokesperson. He was elevated as in-charge of Bihar in 2018, given additional charge of Delhi earlier this year, and made a Rajya Sabha MP in June this year.

Often described as Ahmed Patel’s “right-hand man”, Gohil was the Congress veteran’s poll agent in the closely fought 2017 Rajya Sabha election that Patel had won, outmanoeuvring the BJP.

Gohil started his political career in the early 1980s while still in college. In the mid-1980s, as Youth Congress office-bearer, he had been spotted by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at a national function.

He won the Bhavnagar South Assembly seat in Gujarat at the age of 30 in 1990, and became the minister of state for health at the age of 32 under Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel. He was then the youngest minister in Gujarat’s history.

Two years later though, Gohil took everyone by surprise by resigning over the demand for a medical college for Bhavnagar. The medical college was allocated eventually and Gohil won the seat again in 1995.

Gohil did not contest the 1998 election and lost the one in 2002 that marked Modi’s first electoral win. In the next election in 2007, he returned to the Assembly from Bhavnagar and was made the Leader of the Opposition, emerging as one of the most vocal critics of Modi. However, Gohil lost the 2012 Assembly elections, and while he eventually returned to the Assembly in a by-election from the Abdasa constituency, in the 2017 polls too he couldn’t win. Since then, Gohil has been focusing on national politics.

The Congress veteran had wanted the Grand Alliance in Bihar to be broad-based, involving parties like Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and the Left, but could not convince RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav about the utility of the RLSP and VIP.

However, he managed to bring the CPI, CPM and CPI (M-L) into the fold.

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Meet the ‘Hero of Baramulla’ who conned Pakistan

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

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Maqbool Sherwani

New Delhi, Oct 18 : An event of patriotism from erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 has been given a fresh lease of life. The Union Ministry of Culture has thrown its weight behind the story of October 22, 1947 in its pursuit to mainstream the events of that day that could have altered Kashmir, as we know today.

The Ministry has decided to hold a National Symposium and virtual exhibition on Maqbool Sherwani, a fellow Kashmiri who halted the marching Pakistan-backed tribal militia towards Srinagar.

While Sherwani might have given the Indian Army adequate time to send reinforcements, he had to pay with his own life.

Now, the Narendra Modi-led Central government wants to publicise and mainstream this tale of selfless sacrifice and utter heroism that is starkly opposite to the attempted narrative by Pakistan and certain elements within the valley that Kashmiris want freedom.

The ministry is hailing him as the ‘Hero of Baramulla’.

Prof Amitabh Mattoo will virtually join the symposium themed on “Martyr Maqbool Sherwani: Memory, myth and Imagination”. The Centre organised symposium is also scheduled to take place the same day, Sherwani flaunted his passion for the country- 22nd October. The event is likely to be beamed live on all social media handles of the ministry — Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram.

“The bravery and subsequent martyrdom of Maqbool Sherwani in 1947 and the story of his role during the Pakistan-backed invasion of Kashmir needs to be mainstreamed throughout India,” says Mattoo.

Sherwani, then a 19-year-old National Conference worker, has been credited with single-handedly stalling the advance of the tribal invaders to Srinagar.

“He managed the feat by telling the invaders that Indian Army was camping outside Baramulla and that a move towards Srinagar would be their undoing. The enemy froze in its tracks before the Indian reinforcement had reached Srinagar. Many say that the outcome of the war would have been different had invaders reached Srinagar before the Indian Army,” reads an e-poster by the Union Ministry of Culture created for the event that will be used to generate interest, in the coming few days over social media.

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

His body was nailed on a wooden plank and left. Now, this heroic story will be disseminated to today’s generation of India and more so to those in the valley, many of whom may not be aware of such an event that could have altered history.

The Culture Ministry has also prepared a 53 second long audio video clip that will be teased over social media to create a buzz and generate interest in him and the significance of the date.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])

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