Minority Education in India: Issues of Access, Equity
Edited by Dr. Abdul Waheed
Serials Publication, New Delhi
4830/24-Prahlad St., Ansari Road,
Daryaganj, New Delhi110002
Rs. 850, Pages 252
Reviewed by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Minority Education in India: Issues of Access, Equity and Inclusion is edited compilation of 22 papers presented by a large number of educationists and social activists at a national seminar organized under the aegis of CEPECAMI in the Aligarh Muslim University on March 7 and 8, 2009. Having attracted a diverse range of scholars, the seminar looked at the Muslim situation in the field of education and assessed as to where the Muslim community figures after 65 years of independence. Exclusion linked deprivation has been the bane of Muslims in India. While it is more pronounced in political representation and economic empowerment, it operates subtly in the educational and cultural fields as they are considered tools of soft power. Being the key input for economic progress, modern, higher and professional education is considered sine qua non for Muslims to claim their legitimate place and proportional representation in vital spheres of national life. Tone of the book is set by paper titled ‘Social Topography of Delineated Others: Muslims in Contemporary India’, a study focused on Mumbra suburb of Mumbai. The chapter is an exercise in mapping moral barricading vis- Ã -vis others with topographical delineation. It analyses how exclusion linked deprivation causes barriers for individuals and communities and how exclusion underlines the negation of freedom and denial of basic human right to those who are at the periphery of contemporary political and development discourses. The paper by Manoj Kumar Jha and P. K. Shahjahan focuses on how myths propagated by media, misinterpretation of history and linking of violent incidents to Islam and Muslims could malign the image of a community and ruin its prospects of claiming inclusion and equal opportunities and lead to civic neglect and increased surveillance of the areas inhabited by them. The study has focused on Mumbra (from where Ishrat Jahan, killed by Gujarat police in a fake encounter, hailed) and etches to relief the contours of spatial delineation. Not all positive efforts on inclusion of a minority would pay the dividends unless the powers that be ensure communal security and harmony. Sabiha Hussain’s paper on plight of the community in Darbhanga district of Bihar says Muslim girls were withdrawn from colleges after the community was targeted en masse in Gujarat. Evidently, Muslims alone cannot be accused of gender disparity. Mobility of women presupposes physical safety and environment of communal harmony. Disequilibrium affects the women more than men. But curiously, record of communal Gujarat in matters of providing access to Muslims to education and employment is fairer than West Bengal which has been under supposedly secular Marxists regimes for the last 35 years. Despite Muslims representing a quarter of the state’s population, their representation is merely 2.1% among government employees. None of the State’s more than 20 universities were set up in Murshidabad, Malda and East Dinajpur (Muslim representing more than 50 % in each of them). IPS officer Nazrul Islam has bared the record of the Marxists who have treated the Muslim areas no better than the Congress regimes. In the tiny state of Goa, Muslims are yet to register their presence. Muslim students figure not more than 2% among the 25,000 students who clear the 10th board exam every year. The community has poor educational infrastructure. Things begin to look up as one moves to the four southern states. Andhra Pradesh takes the case with liberal sanctioning of professional and higher educational institutions. At the last count, the state had 51 Muslim managed engineering colleges, two medical colleges, 109 colleges imparting MBA and MCA, more than 25 Muslim minority Pharmacy colleges, 11 PG colleges, 109 B.Ed colleges, and 11 degree colleges in and around Hyderabad. Generous and helpful policies of the Government of Andhra Pradesh and proactive approach of the Muslim elites has produced synergy to improve the educational conditions of Muslims. Not to be missed is the point that the State Government pays 100% of the tuition fees for the Muslims (categorized under extremely backward group) in professional colleges. The colleges are directly reimbursed from the state treasury. Karnataka is another success story. Maqbool Ahmed Siraj attributes this to liberal sanctioning of professional colleges to all communities, 4% reservation under Most Backward Community category and educational activism shown by the community itself. The state Muslims have also set up good many other subsidiary institutions to play a supportive role. Kerala has always been in the vanguard of literacy movement. Muslims directly benefitted from close cultural and linguistic identification with the mainstream. Though Kerala woke up late to the knock of privatization, the community was quick to benefit from largesse in terms of professional colleges. Muslims in Kerala today run as many as five medical and 16 engineering colleges, 10 dental colleges, besides a host of organization running degree and Arabic colleges and yet another body setting up hostels. Tamil Nadu Muslims are least heard but had had an impressive record in institutions building. Two such institutions namely Melvisharam Muslim Educational Society (MMES) and Thassim Beevi College for Women in the coastal town of Kilakarai are shining examples of educational activism. Prof. V. K. Beeran makes a strong plea for recognizing the Muslim as a whole as a socially and educationally backward community and granting it reservation in the central services. Industrialist Phiroz Poonawalla says there are few jobs available now and are getting fewer. Entrepreneurial education of Muslim youth would take them to the more prosperous avenues. P. K. Faisal’s paper on modernization of madrassas highlights interesting experiments being made in blending the traditional and modern curriculum. Courts to have muddied the course of Muslim pursuit of equity by gradual dilution of Article 30 (i) guaranteeing educational and cultural rights of the minorities. He pleads for straight 75 % reservation of seats of minority institutions for the minorities. Competently edited by Dr. Abdul Waheed, the book is likely to serve as a reference work on issues pertaining to education of Muslim minority in India for several years to come.