Initiating the discussion Fana Watch Editor A U Asif dwelt in detail the importance of education in human life. He said education occupied a key status in the human history. According to him, all the religions and civilizations emphasized upon it. He pointed out that the human history began when basic knowledge was taught to the first Prophet Adam. And, the divine revelation upon the last Prophet Mohammed too began with “Iqra” (Read), he opined.
He welcomed the Congress-led UPA Government’s decision to devise a specific law on right to education and revealed that the education was declared free and compulsory first time in human history by the world’s first coalition government headed by Prophet Mohammed as per the Charter of Madinah over 1400 years ago.
However, he opined that the new law on education did not seem to be free of the colonial trends as declared by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), a member of the Governing Council of the East India Company from 1834 to 1838. According to him, Lord Macaulay formulated his policy proposal in his “Minute on Indian Education”, delivered in Kolkata on February 2, 1835. The then Governor General of India, William Bentinck, approved his proposal on March 7, 1835 so that it became the cornerstone of British-Indian educational policy until Independence and remained largely in force after that as well.
He pointed out that the fears and apprehensions being found among Muslims with regard to the institutions imparting indigenous education like “deeni wa duniawi taleem” (Religious and Contemporary Education) and “hifz wa tajweed” were not without any reason. According to him, education institutions and curriculum defined in the new law were only those approved by the government.
Raising the question with regard to the fate of indigenous education and also minority modern educational institutions, he quoted Lord Macaulay’s famous assertion from his minute:
“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”
Supreme Court Advocate-On-Record Mushtaque Ahmed Alig said he did not find any new points in the new law. According to him, the new law contained most of the basic points mentioned in the previous laws on education. He suggested “we should allow the law to take a shape first and only afterwards any practical difficulties or hazards may come before us.” However, he said the points of objections made by Ulema and other people should be pondered over.
Media-person Khursheed Alam questioned the fate of those before attaining the age of six years as the new law was meant for the children from 6 to 14 years only. According to him, the new law, based on the legislation Neighbourhood Education School System, enforced in 114 countries, was being implemented in India without any appropriate infrastructure. He pointed out that there was no space in the existing schools.
Agreeing with A U Asif, he also raised the question as to what would happen to those children intending to do hifz? He said 6-14 years was the age when a child joined an institution of hifz and tajweed.
Mauji Khan, former Delhi Police official, AIMC Treasurer and owner of several educational institutions, too wanted clarifications on several points in the Right to Education Act and suggested the formation of a committee to think it over.
Social activist Hakim Zillur Rahman asked the purpose of bringing in the new law soon after the hue and cry over the government proposal for a central madarsa board. He said the need of the hour was “the preparation and introduction of a syllabus and curriculum from our point of view” in the educational institutions. In this connection, he urged the IOS to form a committee to discuss the necessary points.
Musharraf Hussain, a retired teacher and educational activist, said “we should not only discuss the laws but strive to get it enforced fully so that its fruits can reach to the masses.” He said under the PM’s 15-point Programme for Minorities the children of minorities up to class v had to receive stipend Rs 1000.00 per annum. However, when 25,000 students applied for stipend, it was kept in pending and only after raising the issue through RTI Act, the matter was resolved for merely 12,000 students, he claimed.
Mufti Nadir Qasmi of the Islamic Fiqah Academy (IFA) queried as to what would be the fate of those doing hifz and the madarsas running independently.
In his presidential remarks, Prof. Z M Khan, also a noted political scientist and author of recently published book “Political Empowerment of Muslims in India”, said “India is a democratic country. Therefore, we should not see everything in black and white but in its different shades also.”
According to him, it was not a Muslim educational law. So, it dealt with the education for all. He agreed with the proposal for constituting a committee to ponder over different aspects of the new law so that any apprehensions about it could be ruled out and if necessary suggestions to improve it could be given to the government.