The Bengal Madrasah Education Forum on Monday (June 22) announced three “patriotic” scholarships in memory of the two Indian Army jawans from the state who were killed in the recent skirmishes with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.
The initiative, though aimed at inspiring a “sense of patriotism” among the students, many believe will also help bust some of the falsehoods often propagated by the BJP against the Islamic institutions of learning.
The forum, in a statement, said that the first scholarship of ₹10,000 would be given in the memory of slain Sepoy Rajesh Orang to a student from the Scheduled Tribe community of the state who would score the highest mark in the High Madrasah final examination.
The second scholarship of ₹10,000, in memory of another martyred solider, Havildar Bipul Roy, would be given to the top scorer in the district of Alipurduar in the secondary school examination (Class 10) conducted by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. Roy hailed from Alipurduar.
These two scholarships would continue for three years, said Israrul Hoque Mondal, president of the forum.
The third one, Rajesh Orang and Bipul Roy Valour Scholarship of ₹40,000 would be given to an underprivileged student of Class 12 (science stream) of 2020 staying in hostel, Mondal said.
Welcoming the announcement, Sibaram Saha, a senior staff of the Agordanga High Madrasah at Keturgram in East Burdwan district, said it was yet another example of how the institutions of Madrasah inculcate patriotism and uphold secularism, particularly in West Bengal.
He said that the Madrasahs were often falsely maligned for political gain, and initiatives like this would help blunt propaganda to a large extent. Mondal too said that the announcement would help change “psychology”, particularly of the students about Madrasahs.
“We announced these scholarships because we want students to remember the valour and sacrifice of the martyrs. We will soon write to the chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) urging her to include a chapter about their sacrifices in the Madrasah syllabus,” Mondal added.
The forum is the association of teachers of the state’s 614 government-aided Madrasahs. It has about 10,000 members, many of them non-Muslims.
Madrasahs are being targeted by BJP leaders who accuse them of teaching extremism. A senior BJP leader, Sakshi Maharaj, once even described these institutions as the breeding ground for terrorists.
Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board chief Waseem Rizvi, who is regarded close to the BJP, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, asking him to shut down Madrasahs immediately or else half of the country’s Muslims would get influenced by Islamic State ideologies within the next 15 years.
Contrary to such perceptions, Madrasahs in West Bengal are considered as institutions of secular learning and draw a large number of Muslim students.
At present, 17 per cent students and 11 per cent teaching and non-teaching staff of high Madrasahs and a significant number of the members of the managing committee are non-Muslims, according to data provided by the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education.
Nearly 18 per cent of the students registered for the High Madrasah examination, or Class 10 examination, this year were Hindus, a rise of over five per cent from last year’s 12.77 per cent.
Muslim students are actually in minority in a few Madrasahs, namely Orgram Chatuspallly High Madrasah (Burdwan), Kasba MM High Madrasah (Uttar Dinajpur), Chandrakona Islamia High Madrasah (West Midnapore), Dabra High Madrasah (Hooghly) and Sagar Moniruddin High Madrasah (South 24 Parganas).
In Dabra High Madrasah, around 80 per cent of students are non-Muslims.
Interestingly, several Muslim students in many of these Madrasahs opt for Sanskrit as an optional subject in Class 11 and 12.
For instance, out of the Agordanga High Madrasah’s 72 students who sat for the Class 12 examination, 69 had Sanskrit as optional subject, Saha said, adding that in the impending Class 12 batch, out of 99, only 14 opted for Arabic while the rest preferred the Sanskrit.
In Agordanga High Madrasah, out of 727 students, 325 are Hindus and of its 19 teaching and non-teaching staff, 10 are Hindus.