Discussion on the “Changing Context of Education in India: A Review”

June 04, 2014 at IOS Conference Hall

With the installation of BJP government at the Centre, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, under Smt. Smriti Irani, is all set to unveil a plan that is causing concern among the leaders of the community. HRD Minister has drawn up a list of 10 priorities that point to the shape of things to come. The Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) took the initiative to elicit views of academics at a discussion on “Changing Context of Education in India: A Review” at the conference Hall of the Institute on June 4, 2014.

Initiating the discussion, the Chairman of the IOS, Dr. Mohd. Manzoor Alam referred to the plan of the new HRD Minister to increase total spending on education to 6 percent of the GDP and ensure that each state had an IIT and the Yale-IIT network. These points include traditional Vedic education as part of the curriculum, incorporation of Gujarat model on teachers’ training, reforms in legal education and taking up of the Foreign Education Providers Bill, among others. He sought to know what implication the plan for saffronisation of education would have on the future system of education in India.

Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan, Vice Chairman of the IOS and a prominent scholar of history, in his brief talk described Dinanath Batra’s campaign against selected history books as an attempt to propagate RSS ideology. He said that a chain of DAV schools in the country were used as an instrument to inculcate Hindu ethos on the students. He believed that a group in the Congress, represented by Rajendra Prasad, Morarji Desai, K M Munshi, etc., had leanings towards Hindutva. He noted that Batra was not only present in education, but in every field of activity.

He said that there were a number of institutions and organisations to espouse the cause of RSS. He opined that Narendra Modi was part and parcel of the RSS, who grew with the organisation and had come of age. He described Modi as Chanakya of the RSS. Indira Gandhi, too, was autocratic but she was never part of an ideology as Modi was, he concluded.

Prof. Faizan Mustafa, Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, remarked that there was nothing substantial in the 10-point agenda of the HRD Minster. Commenting on the new BJP government’s plan to privatise education, he said that it offered us an opportunity to take advantage of that plan. Out of 2,500 model schools, we could corner at least 10 percent by investing in them. He pleaded that, instead of demanding reservation for Muslims, we should ensure that 33 percent Muslim girls be enrolled in schools and colleges. Referring to the attendance of girls in secondary schools, he said that while the attendance of non-Muslim girls accounted for 87 percent, the attendance of Muslim girls stood abysmally at 16 percent.

Calling for taking advantage of the Right to Education (RTE), he favoured skipping of the mid-day meal. He informed that the government had agreed to do something for female education and opined that education was not a contentious issue. He said that at least 25 percent Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalayas be earmarked for the minorities. Prof. P K Abdul Azis, former Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University held that the government could not make sweeping changes in the allocation of funds for the minorities. He said that we should seek funds and optimally utilise whatever was available.

He felt that a great responsibility devolved on community leaders to ensure that the programmes and schemes meant for the Muslims were implemented. Voicing concern over the failure of nearly 33 percent Muslim children to get enrolled in schools, he said that there were no takers for private universities. He allayed fears of Muslims about BJP’s ascendance to power, saying the legal remedies were available to challenge any wrong-doing by government.

However, he called for eternal vigilance against wrongdoing. He said that there was nothing to worry about the number of the institutions run and managed by Muslims that ran into thousands. There was no threat to them, he said. Referring to the 7th point in HRD Minister’s agenda regarding incorporation of Gujarat model on teachers training, he said we should not be apprehensive of it and adopt a positive outlook.

Prof. Mohsin Usmani, former Dean, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, exuded confidence by quoting the Holy Quran in which Allah commands the believers not to be fearful. He admitted that the situation obtaining today was very serious, yet we should do what we did in the past to surmount the tempest that was originating from Nagpur. He especially recalled of the horror of partition and said that we survived it. Those were trying times when educated Muslims migrated to Pakistan, leaving behind a vast population to fend for itself. He suggested setting up of a cell by the IOS to keep track of developments in the country.

After Prof. Usmani, Prof M. Afzal Wani cited a verse of the Quran 3:139 وَلاَ تَهِنُوا وَلاَ تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ - Eng. Tr. So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith. Prof. Wani asserted that challenges, if any, should be first objectively sorted out and then only strategically met. He talked of two components of education - technological and ideological. The technological components is common to all people, the differences can be only in the other. This only needs to be balanced. In his understanding the Constitution of India can withstand that. He stressed for strategies to ensure more admissions of Muslim students in government institutions which may include efforts by all of us even at local levels through informal teaching and coaching.

Dr. Fakhruddin Mohammad, Secretary, MESCO (Muslim Educational Social and Cultural Organisation), Hyderabad, welcomed the proposal to enhance investment in education. He expressed satisfaction that his organisation had done a lot for educational empowerment of Muslims in Andhra Pradesh and beyond. He viewed the proposal for imparting moral education as very important. He also listed some of the points in HRD Minister’s agenda.

Prof. Manzoor Ahmad, Vice-Chancellor of Subharti University, Meerut, pleaded for setting up of a centre to guide on various issues. He said that Narendra Modi knew full well that only the use of technology could ensure development. Modi’s emphasis on education was based on the premise that through education only could he realise his dream of India’s development. In this connection, he especially referred to Dr. Ambedkar whose constitutional guarantee of reservation to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes. He cautioned against the danger of polarisation against Muslims.

Mr. P A Inamdar, a well-known educationist from Pune, advised Muslims not to panic. He said that Muslims’ attitude to various issues underwent a change in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition. He opined that Muslims always fared well when faced with difficulties. He said that the number of Muslim institutions in Gujarat had gone up to 1,000 from a bare of 187 during Modi’s rule. He said that the 12th five-year plan was in place and the government was bound to promote schemes accordingly. It was not easy to change the allocation for schemes under various departments. Every law passed by the legislation would be within the framework of the Constitution. He pointed out that the Right to Information Act was in place as a bulwark against any draconian provision in the law to be enacted by the new government.

He favoured ignoring the 10-point agenda. He said that we should concentrate on technology-based education. Calling for formulating a 5-year strategy for technology-based education, he said that the shift from pencil to modern technology was needed. He pleaded for value added education to girl students. He asked the leaders of the community to demand scholarship for Muslim students on the pattern of scholarship admissible to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students.

Prof. M Afzal Wani, Professor of Law, Gurugobind Singh Indraprasth University, New Delhi called for following Qur’anic commands when faced with ideological onslaughts. While calling for an objective approach to the problem, he quoted the Quran’s assurance “you will be superior, if you are a Momin”. He asked the community to have good intentions.

Senior journalist and policy analyst, Mr. M. Zeyaul Haque, called for strictly adhering to the agenda. He emphasised the need for confining the discussion to the subject only. No extraneous subject should be introduced and no sermon be delivered, he said.

The Secretary General of the IOS, Prof. Z M Khan said that the minutes of the discussions would be circulated among all the participants and the Muslim intelligentsia. He said that the IOS had been studying the RSS ideology and M S Golwalkar’s vision of India. RSS was biding time to come out with the scheme beyond the 10-point agenda. While terming the situation as dangerous, he said that we should be ready to face any eventuality. He remarked that there were so many things, including the Constitution, values and traditions that were favourably disposed towards us. He pleaded for making a common cause with Dalits, Christians and other disadvantaged people. He cited the example of the demand for enforcement of the common civil code by saying that Hindus opposed it more than Muslims.

In his closing remarks, the Chairman, IOS, Dr. Mohd. Manzoor Alam drew attention towards a situation that might emerge following the present government’s move to make a repeat of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government to review the Constitution. He expressed the apprehension that the saffronisation that had started in Madhya Pradesh with the Suryanamaskar would not stop there. The process of saffronisation of school textbooks had begun. He expressed concern over attack against innocent Muslims in Pune and elsewhere. He said that an environment was being sought to be created in which it would be difficult to work freely. He opined that demand for more and more public institutions be made.


The discussion ended with a dua by Prof. Mohsin Usmani. Those who attended the function included Dr. Anjum Zahoor, a journalist and researcher, Dr. Shaukat Ali, former Controller of Examinations, Maulana Mazharul Haq Arabic and Persian University, Patna, Prof. Shamim A Ansari, Director, Centre for Promotion of Education and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India (CEPECAMI), Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, several academicians, social activists and prominent citizens.

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