|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The new NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced it will roll out a plan for modernising madrassa education next month. It is a welcome step that should have been taken years back considering radicalised state of Pakistan, but better late than never. An article in 'Daily Times' of Pakistan on May 11, 2009, titled 'A Monstrous Experiment' had read, "There are thousands of madrassas spread all over Pakistan's urban centres that are producing millions of neo-drones ...Take a little boy and incarcerate him in a remote madrassa. Indoctrinate him with a distorted version of a religion and tell him that he does not belong to this world. Teach him about the fanciful world that awaits him in the heaven, and that in order to attain that he has to destroy everything that stands in his way, including his own body... At full steam ahead in Pakistan, this is a monstrous experiment in brainwashing and it is on a par with, if not worse than, Nazi Germany's eugenics. They did it in the name of science; here, it is being done in the name of God and religion. On a very large scale, this is a hugely successful experiment in which nurture triumphs and nature takes a beating".
On May 29, 2019, Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and chief spokesperson of Pakistan Armed Forces, told media that Pakistan plans to take control of a network of over 30,000 madrassas as part of a drive to "mainstream" the Islamic schools by bringing them under state control, but that Islamic education will continue to be provided less any hate speech. But this appears to be more of a charade because of global pressure to curb down terrorism and fear of being placed in the 'black list' of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) coming October. A Pakistani judge had stated last year that the military was recruiting terrorists but later retracted his statement under pressure.
The plan of the new NDA government to modernise madrassas was disclosed by Minority Affairs Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to the media on June 11, 2019, underlining that the government wants to link madrassas with formal education system in the country. He said as a first step, teachers of the madrassas will be provided training in formal education, adding, "Their (madrassa) teachers will be given training in formal education. We will ask madrassas themselves to identify the teachers for this. We will train them so that they can provide formal education in madrassas." He elaborated that this training programme will start from next month, and that in the first phase, effort will be to train at least 200 teachers from all over the country. Naqvi also told media that the government is also working on a plan to ensure that the students who come out of madrassas get formal and higher education in institutes like Jamia Milia Islamia and Delhi University, providing 'bridge course' so that they get formal degrees.
The 'bridge course' will be available from eighth standard onwards so that the children coming out of the madrassas can at least get formal Secondary School or Higher Secondary School degrees. In madrassas too the government wants to introduce formal education in the form of subjects like English, Hindi, Science, Maths, Computer Sciences, among others. He said, government had already talked to Jamia Millia Islamia, is talking to Delhi University, and will be talking to more such education institutions. Explaining the need for such an initiative, Naqvi said poor people and villagers generally send their children to madrassas because of lack of availability of formal schools to them. Successive governments failed to take this important step especially in J&K where radicalisation had a virtual free hand to blossom. As posted on social media by someone, "For both Al Qaeda and Islamic State, Kashmir Valley was a low-hanging fruit because of its absolute Islamisation over the years, facilitated by Article 370 and Article 35A, coupled with Delhi's continued mollycoddling of the protagonists - both the mainstream Islamists as well the local Pak stooges. Genocidal ethnic cleansing of 'kafir' aborigine Hindus according to the pan-Islamists provided demographic advantage. Further, the 2014 mandate was surrendered at the feet of Islamist Muftis, will 2019 mandate go the same way and India's vulnerability to Islamists' onslaught remains unchanged?"
Notwithstanding this view, how far the government plan to modernise madrassas will succeed, only time will tell, considering the pressures, both internal and external against it. As importantly, government also must focus on the education-radicalisation connect other than in madrassas. Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad wrote in 2008, "The promotion of militarism in Pakistan's schools, colleges and universities has had a profound effect on young people. Militant jihad has become a part of the culture in college and university campuses, with armed groups inviting students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The immediate future of Pakistan looks grim, as increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control over the minds of their worshippers. It may yet be possible to roll back the Islamist laws and institutions that have corroded Pakistani society for over 30 years, and defeat the 'holy' warriors. However, this can only happen if Pakistan's elected leaders acquire the trust of the citizens. To do this, political parties, government officials and, yes, even generals will have to embrace democracy, in both word and deed." This is not the state in India, but Dr Ajay Sahni, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi, visiting Kashmir Valley in late 2016 found to his horror that the text book for class five in a school (not madrassa) was teaching students to hate non-Muslims. That should be important indication for the Union Government. Education may be a state subject but with Governor rule in J&K extended by another six months, this should be addressed and erring teachers also de-radicalised.