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Exercise in inclusion

Tuesday 14 August 2007, by REHMAN*Mujibur

Examination of the persisting Realities relating to educational rights

There are three vital political moments in Indian history that deserve to be contextualised for any sort of serious deliberation on Muslim education. The first political moment appeared during the post-Sepoy mutiny era when Sir Syed Ahmed Khan articulated the philosophical, political and economic premises for the need of modern education that eventually gave birth to the Aligarh movement. Muslims at the time were viewed more as a community of former ruling elites than mino rities, which became the case during the other two political moments. The second political moment arrived during the early days of the Indian Republic under the frightening shadow of the Partition, and the final one is the contemporary one that roughly began in the late 1980s amidst the gathering storm of Hindutva politics.

Varying contexts

The key argument of this book edited by one of the most visible champions of minority rights, and former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (1996-99) could be better understood if the readers are sensitive to these varying contexts and their subtle implications for minority education.

Although a large bulk of contributions is about Muslim education, there are chapters that address other minorities like Sikhs, Christians, Arya Samajis, and minorities in other countries, particularly Pakistan, about which virtually nothing is alluded to let alone debated in India. This exercise of including other minorities definitely fills a huge void that has been starkly visible in our public discourse.

State of affairs

However, this book is less about minority education as such and more about the politics of minority educational institutions. Each chapter seeks to explain how various communities have used the available constitutional rights to advance minority education. The contributions on major institutions like the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jamia Millia Islamia, and Jamia Hamdard, St. Stephen’s College, Khalsa College and several others offer the intricate history of these institutions as well as a good description of the strategy and challenges of their community leaders. The chapter on Aligarh and Jamia suggests how deeply the nation’s politics and the complex processes of nation building are intertwined with the politics of minority institutions. Nearly all chapters echo deep concerns pertaining to the flawed provisions, their inadequate application for institution building, and the growing need for further public debate on this theme.

Looking at the state of affairs in India’s minority education it is observed that institutions run by Christian missionaries — such as St. Stephen’s College — are often better maintained than the ones run by other minorities. At times, governance of minority institutions like the AMU and Jamia deteriorate to such an extent that army generals and bureaucrats are needed to fix them. Why is it so? This is a question that is neither asked nor addressed in this volume, although it would have enlightened our understanding of the community dimension of politics of minority institutions. No doubt discrimination exists but there is a need to ask why and how community leaders or elites often promote their narrow interests in the guise of minority education and minority rights. Some contributions on how internal community politics could undermine the public good often accrued from constitutional provisions could have given useful insight into the politics of minority education.

According to the Sachar Committee Report, Muslim parents want to impart modern education to their children, but they fail to do so often owing to their poor socio-economic conditions. This suggests that institution building needs to be supplemented with further policy interventions in the arena of socio-economic conditions of the community in order to fulfil the primary objective of minority education. Considering the varied themes and concerns the book raises, India’s policy-making community and scholars interested in the subject would definitely find it rewarding.

See online : The Hindu


POLITICS OF MINORITY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS — Law and Reality in the Subcontinent: Tahir Mehmood — Editor; Imprint One,

C-562, Sushant, Lok-I, Gurgaon-122002. Rs. 495.

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