Ashfaq Karim – Fall of an Icon

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The man who set up the first Muslim medical college in Bihar fell prey to his lust and greed and squanders the credibility he had gained over the years.

By Anish Ankur

Sanction, affiliation and recognition of professional educational institutions is sought for the sake of minorities. But once these get going the sponsors begin to sell seats to those who can cough up what they demand and cause of the minority’s education takes a back seat.
On June 15, Muslims in Bihar were shocked beyond their belief when chairman and managing director of the Katihar Medical College was arrested from his residence while selling away question papers for the MBBS entrance test that was to begin the next day. Police tipped off well in advance before the deal, raided his residence on Ashiana-Digha Road in Patna during which a sum of Rs. 2.5 crore were recovered. Cheques worth 25 lakhs, a bank passbook having a deposit of one crore, and a diary containing details of the money collected from candidates appearing for the MBBS entrance examination to his college were recovered. Property documents worth crores in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnatka and Shimla were also recovered.
Patna Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Manu Maharaj said that “The bundles of notes were stashed beneath beds in different rooms. Currency notes were found from inside pillow and cushions covers, beneath a giant sofa, under bed mattresses and under seat covers of two luxury cars. A currency-counting machine was also found in the house.”
Eight persons, including two girls, were detained for interrogation. The police seized question papers of medical entrance examination, bundles of mark sheets and a licensed revolver. One Rajendra Yadav, a resident of Samastipur, was detained when he along with his son Kumar Shanu visited Karim’s house carrying a bag containing Rs. 10 lakh in cash. “We are natives of Samastipur where I sold off a piece of our land to pay for my son’s admission to the medical college,” Yadav said.
SSP also said, “Karim would take between Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 60 lakh for a seat. But at times students would not get admission and were not even refunded the donation. These students and their guardians made the complaints to the police”. Arrest of Ashfaq Karim (53) provoked sharp reaction from some of the leading Muslims in the city. Reacting to the episode Maulana Wali Rahmani, Sajjada Nashin of Khanqah Rahmani, Munger said that “This action of the police team was a conspiracy to weaken Katihar Medical College, and to prevent and discourage Muslims from acquiring higher and professional education to build a bright future.” He further added “Every year 50-60 Muslim youths become doctors after passing out from this medical college, which gives them a bright future.”
Established in 1987 by Al-Karim Educational Trust, Katihar Medical College is a minority educational institute in Katihar, Bihar. The medical college is affiliated to Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University (B.N.Mandal University), Madhepura and recognized by MCI. The college provides MBBS and various PG courses. More than 50% of seats are reserved for candidates belonging to Muslim religious minority community. The parent body of Katihar Medical College, Al-Karim Educational Trust, is a registered trust of the members of the Muslim community devoted to the promotion of education among Muslims.
Sensing a minority bias against the raid and arrest, Uzma Bari, a social worker and Congress leader asked “why such raids were not conducted on the residences or offices of non-Muslim educational institutions. Where education is imparted and promoted as business and are earning huge profits”
Asfaq Karim got a lot of support from Muslim institutions. Imarat-e-Sharia’s general secretary and chairman of Haj Committee, Anisur Rahman Kasmi supported Karim and termed the raid and arrest as conspiracy against minority educational institutions. Ghulam Gaus, leader of Rashtriya Janta Dal led by Lalu Prasad in Bihar legislative council staged a dharna in support of Ashfaq Karim in which a large number of people participated. Such is the clout of Ashfaq Karim that even Friday prayers in Mosques were used as a platform to spread the message of conspiracy theory and appeal were made to take part in dharna in large numbers.
Ashfaq Karim was active in politics also. He was among the first to join Samata Party when Nitish Kumar broke off with Lalu Prasad in 1994. Later, he joined the LJP and contested the parliamentary polls from Katihar in 2009. Ashfaq Karim, came a long way in his eventful and struggling career. Hailing from Patepur block of Vaishali district he was an average student with a rural middle class background. He got Bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1987.
Old timers says that he was a smart guy with a wide social contacts which he later encashed in establishing his ambitious project, Katihar Medical College. He left no stone unturned to make this institution a reputed one. This institution, Katihar Medical College, is now considered as one of the best minority institution in entire Hindi belt. Some even describe its facilities on par with international standards. No wonder then why parents are curious to get their wards enrolled in the college.
Credit also goes to Ashfaq Karim’s single minded commitment and hard work that went into securing affiliation from the Medical Council of India despite objection from Education Department, Government of Bihar during Lalu Prasad Yadav rule. Education Department had dilly dallied in matters of issuing NOC (No Objection Certificate) necessary for MCI approval. Ashfaq Karim , then, moved the Supreme Court accusing Government of victimization of minority institution. Supreme Court then passed a historic judgment that laid down that NOC would be issued after a stipulated period to any minority institution which has applied for affiliation. Social activist Aftab Ahmed gives the credit for establishing the first professional college by Muslim in the State as well as providing courage to others to follow suit.
Giving a very differing narrative behind the raid and arrest of Ashfaq Karim, Irshadul Haque, moderator of Hindi website Naukarshahi.in said, “When some top level influential police officers failed to get admission for their children for free they hatched a conspiracy against him.” But Irshadul also accused him for not doing anything significant for backward section of minority “Despite this college is enjoying all the benefits given to the minority institutions by the state. He never followed reservations policy for backward sections of the minorities in the college and placed money over everything”. Inquiry reveals that in post graduate courses there are only six Muslims against 34 non-Muslims. However, in the MBBS course, the majority of the students are Muslims.
It is an irony that the man who initiated the process of modern technical education for minorities in Bihar has become victim of his own greed and lust for money.
Rise and fall of Ahmad Ashfaq Karim tells us that the path of welfare of minorities cannot go through immoral means. As renowned activist of literacy movement Ghalib Khan puts it, “Any unethical and unIslamic way of making money cannot be justified under the garb of minority educational welfare.”