Lok Sabha elections: WB regional Muslim parties join hands
By Manzar Bilal, TwoCircles.net,
Patna: Muslims of West Bengal, who had a glorious past and once had economic prosperity, are facing various kinds of problems concerning every aspect of their lives. They are considered extremely poor and only fit for ordinary labour. Business groups are exploiting them by giving meager wages. Their educational percentage is also vey low.
However, keeping an eye on alluring Muslim voters political parties are including promises to Muslims in their manifestos. Congress ensured reservation for Muslims in job sectors in its manifesto, its ally in West Bengal Trinamool Congress also went on the same track.
The Trinamool Congress promised job reservations for the Muslims and women as well as to introduce Urdu as the second language in all areas where they constitute more than 10 per cent of the population.
It also assured to establish Central universities for the Muslims on the lines of AMU to exclusive schools, medical facilities and madarsas for them.
What are Muslims thinking about these promises?
Fakhrul Islam, a social activist in Kidderpur Kolkata said: “According to a report published in “Indian Express” Muslims’ representation in government jobs are less than 10% while they are 25% of the population of the state. The share of Muslims have gone down during the period of the present government led by the Left alliance. The share of Muslim women in government jobs is also worse as their representation barely touching two per cent”
Zaheer Anwar thinks that unemployment and insecurity are the real problems for Muslims in West Bengal and no party took any initiative to solve that. “Former West Bengal Chief Minister of Congress, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, had promised equality of opportunity to all citizens including members of the Muslim community in government jobs and announced that at least one Muslim police officer would be posted in each and every Police Station in West Bengal but the implementation was not seen on the ground” he told TwoCircles.net.
However, Maulana Siddiqullah Chaudhry, the president of Public Democratic Conference of India (PDCI), firmly rejected the promises made by the Congress and Trinamool Congress and termed it as another attempt to fool to the Muslims. PDCI along with United Democratic Front of Badruddin Ajmal has so far announced its candidates for 10 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.
Candidates for Bashirhat, Joynagar, Sreerampur, Krishnagar, Uluberia, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Bolpur, Birbhum and Balurghat have been announced.
Talking to TwoCircles.net Maulana Chaudhry, who is contesting from Bashirhat, said that the issues on the basis of which we will seek votes are;
First: to save our democratic country from both outsiders and insiders factors who are trying to wipe out the democratic system in the country.
Second: to promote an independent foreign policy that would be without pressure of any country in the world.
Third: to give reservation in all government sectors for Muslims as per their population because it is the only way to tackle unemployment and poverty of the community.
Fourth: to protect women’s chastity and give their actual rights and respects.
Fifth: to establish factories and job sectors without occupying the lands of public.
Asked numbers of the seats on which his party will contest, he said: “PDCI and UDF will contest jointly from 13 constituencies.”
“We also tie with some regional parties such as “Indian Union Muslim League”, “Maghribi Bengal Muslim League”, Samajwadi Janata Party and “Republican Indian Party.”
Though he reserved his opinion on how many seats they expect to win but he expressed his happiness on contesting election jointly saying: “ It is first time when we all came together to fight the elections so, we hope better result” he said.
Noteworthy, Siddiqullah Chaudhry is the person who has been active for last few years for Muslims and other marginalized communities especially in Nandigram.
He said that the major problem that Muslims of West Bengal are facing is unemployment and he blamed both central and state governments for that. “We want to bring down the state government as its policies are against minorities and we are contesting this LS election as a preparation of assembly election” said he.
Lok Sabha elections: Mood of Muslims in Malda and Murshidabad
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net
TCN Series: Visit to Malda and Murshidabad
Hundreds of thousands of them are half-fed. Many hundreds border starvation. But when it comes to politics it seems it runs in their blood. In villages after villages in Murshidabad and Malda – two of India’s heavily Muslim populated districts – you will hardly find a home without a symbol of one party or the other: generally Congress or CPM. Despite the fact that neither did enough to improve their lot over the decades.
Over the years Muslims in these two districts have supported the Congress particularly in General Elections. This time too, majority seem to have made up their mind to go the same way. The two districts together will send five MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Mood in Murshidabad
Ghulam Kibriya Sarkar, mechanical engineer who teaches at a polytechnic in Murshidabad, says: Earlier people would support communist but few years back situation changed. Now people are supporting Congress particularly in Lok Sabha elections but in the assembly elections CPM still holds the ground.
“It is difficult to say about the mood of public today but Congress MPs particularly Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who represents Jangipur LS constituency in the district, has done good work in his area. Congress is expected to win again,” says Abbas Ali, Imam, Raza Miyan Judge Court Masjid in Behrampur, Murshidabad.
There are three LS constituencies in Murshidabad, all represented by the Congress: Jangipur (Pranab Mukherjee), Murshidabad (Mannan Hussain) and Behrampur (Adhir Chaudhry).
Regarding mood of Muslims Syed Noore Khuda, Murshidabad Secretary, Madrasa Teachers’ Association, is not very categorical. “Public is divided. They are motivated by party cadres and commanders. The party whose cadres are strong will get more votes.” He, however, agrees the Congress has upper hand.
“The UPA government led by Manmohan Singh has seriously worked on some programs for the Muslim community,” says Noore Khuda and adds: “But the implementation is very slow.” He also gives the reason. “This is because the government in the state is of the Left Front. Of late, however, the Left government has also done some work for the community.”
Why despite remaining backward Muslims have supported Congress here in the district over the time? “This is because Muslims want to keep BJP out of power in the centre. Muslims are scared of BJP for its policies and hatred towards the community,” says Noore Khuda.
Rather than talking about his choice, Dr Mujeebur Rahman, ex-Principal, Ziaganj College, Murshidabad, raises a different but very important issue. According to Census 2001, Muslims constitute 63.67% of the population of the district. The post of the speaker of Zilla Parishad is reserved for SC. While all three Lok Sabha areas are dominated by Muslims, major political parties field non-Muslim candidates in two of them. Most importantly, some assembly constituencies, dominated by Muslims, are reserved for SCs.
“While three constituencies in Murshidabad are highly Muslim dominated, major parties field non-Muslim candidates. In Jangipur and Behrampur current MPs are Pranab Mukherjee and Adhir Chaudhry respectively. While Murshidabad district has more than 60% Muslims the post of speaker of Zilla Parishad has been kept reserved for SC. Besides, two assembly constituencies Khargram and Sagardighi are dominated by Muslims but reserved for SCs. This has been mentioned in the Sachar Committee report also,” says Mujeebur Rahman adding there should be an urge from government and public that Muslim dominated areas should not be reserved for SC or ST.
In fact there are 10 assembly seats in West Bengal, according to the Sachar Committee report, where Muslims are more than SCs in number, yet the seats have been reserved for the SCs. See Appendix Table 2.2: State Assembly Electoral Constituency / Tahsil, Reserved for Scheduled Castes with relative share of Muslim Population (page 291).
“But Muslims are not aware of that. Nor are they much sensitive about the erosion caused by the Rivers Padma and Ganga. People living in border areas mostly Muslims are worst affected. But no government Congress or Left has done much on this front,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman.
Until last Lok Sabha election in the district, Malda was fiefdom of late ABA Ghani Khan Chaudhry. He was several time Congress MP from the seat. In the election held after his death his brother Abu Hashim took the mantle. He seems set to retain the seat that is now South Malda. After the delimitation a new Lok Sabha seat by the name of North Malda has been created. From this seat Ghani Khan Chaudhry’s neice and sitting Congress MLA Mausam Noor is in the fray for LS debut.
Muhammad Jirgis, High Madrasa teacher says: Both Abu Hashim and Mausoom Noor will easily win the seats. They are from late ABA Ghani Khan Chaudhry family. Abu Hashim, his brother, is sitting MP in South Malda and Mausam, her niece, is sitting MLA in North Malda. The family still holds the sway in the entire district.
Dr Noorul Islam Majidi in Baharal village in North Malda, however, is a little cautious. “Mausam Noor has no strong ground as people do not know her. She has not campaigned in the entire constituency. This is a new constituency. She is taking on a strong communist candidate Alen Sarkar.”
While Trinamool of Mamta Banerjee has little presence in the two districts people feel the alliance will have definite impact on the Left Front.
Asked if Congress-Trinamul alliance will damage significantly the Left Front, Noore Khuda says: TMC is no factor in Murshidabad. Fight is here between CPM and Congress directly.
“In Murshidabad TMC has no ground but in entire state the alliance will affect Left Front. And this has been acknowledged by Left leaders including Jyoti Basu that there will be a tough fight in the election,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman.
Ghulam Kibriya Sarkar does not agree. “The alliance will not affect the Left much as their grassroot organizational cadre is very strong. Besides, there is some resentment within Congress and TMC over the alliance,” he says.
Issues that matter
According to Syed Noore Khuda there are three major issues before public: they want secular government at the centre, implementation of Sachar Committee report and special educational and economic programs for Murshidabad.
The three issues on which Dr Mujeebur Rahman will vote are different. “Reservation for Muslims in education and services is the top issue. The demand is growing. When Congress and Left say it is unconstitutional, the literate electorates say the same has been done in southern states.” Second important issue is health and sanitation programs for the district and third one is soil erosion by Rivers Padma and Ganga.
Mazars in Malda reminder of advent of Islam in Eastern India
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net
TCN series on Malda and Murshidabad : Part 2
Though Muslim-dominated Malda in West Bengal today is known for poverty, illiteracy and backwardness, the city has remained capital of kingdoms – first of Hindu rulers and then Muslims – over several centuries. While grand old official buildings of the ruling class and crumbled great mosques and minarets remind one of the historic significance of the district, some clusters of mazars and graves of early preachers of Islam tell something about the advent of Islam in that part of the world.
There are two famous clusters of mazars in Pandua area of Malda district. In 1338 AD Haji Ilyas Shah, a ruler, brought the whole Bengal under his rule and made Pandua – the ancient Hindu city 20 miles northeast of Lakhnauti – the capital of Bengal. Before that, Lakhnauti or Gaur was the capital over centuries.
Some time in 12th century, during the regime of King Lakhan Sen of Bengal, Iranian emperor Tabrez’ son Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi was sent to Eastern India for the propagation of Islam. He came to Pandua and made this place his centre and began preaching Islam in entire Eastern India from here.
Bais Hazari Wakf Estate
In this Bais Hazari Wakf Estate campus, there are several graves of some friends and pupils of Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi. When the saint decided to make Pandua his centre King Lakhan Sen, who ruled from Lakhnauti or Gaur, some 10 kilometres from Pandua, gave him this Bais Hazari area.
“This is astana of Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi from where he would give sermons to his pupils. Lakhan Sen had given him properties of Bais Hazari Estate for the work,” says my learned – but not professional – guide Dr Muhammad Noorul Islam Majidi when we are moving in the main building in the campus. There are many graves in the campus. They are believed to be of some of those who came with the saint from Iran and some of his friends. His own mazar is somewhere in Pandua. But it is not certain whether that is his mazar, and so it is not popular, Dr Majidi says while giving a running commentary on the surroundings.
Though this campus has no grave of Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi, people have attached much religious importance to the place. People come here all year, particularly in the month of Rajab. On 22 of that month there is a grand urs in this Bais Hazari Estate which has several mazars. They offer fateha and dua. And people offer chader at a special place in the main building that has astana of saint Tabrezi.
Establishment of Muslim rule in Bengal
Muslim rule expanded to this part of eastern India following the third wave of successful invasion by Muhammad Shahabuddin Ghauri. This took place between 1191 AD and 1255 AD.
In 1202 AD when Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji, the lieutenant of Qutbuddin Aibak, then ruler of Delhi, took his army to Bengal. The capital city surrendered to him as the King of Bengal Lakhan Sen abandoned his capital Gaur.
According to the book “Memoirs of Gaur and Pandua” (by M. Abid Ali Khan and H. E. Stapleton), “Gaur, under the names of Ramavati and Lakshmanavati, was probably one of the royal capitals of the Pal and Sen Kings, but its recorded history does not begin until the Muhammadan conquest of western and Northern Bengal (Rarh and Varendra) by Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar Khalji, the lieutenant of Qutbuddin Aibak of Delhi, in the year 599 of the Hijra, corresponding with 1202 A.D. Rai Lakshman Sen (better known as Lakhan Sen) who had renamed Gaur Lakshmanavati after his own name, was then King of Bengal, and Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar, advancing rapidly by the south easterly road from Bihar, surprised him in his capital of Nadia on the Bhagirathi river (now represented by Nabadwip, a little to the west of Krishnagar).”
The author further says that Muhammad Bakhtiyar then caused the Khutbah to read, and coins struck in the name of Qutbuddin Aibak, the ruler in Delhi. After the conquest of Bengal, Muhammad Bakhtiyar established mosques, colleges and rest houses for dervishes in that province and made Lakhnauti the seat of his government.
From the time of Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji (1202-05) down to that of Qadar Khan (1325-38) Bengal formed a dependency of the throne of Delhi, but after the death of Qadar Khan in 1338 Bengal was ruled by its own Kings who were quite independent of the Delhi rule. Within the 14 years following 1338 Haji Ilyas Shah brought the whole Bengal under his rule and made Pandua the capital.
Sikandar Shah I, the son of Haji Ilyas Shah, also made Pandua his seat of government which remained with his family till about 1410 AD when Raja Kans (or Ganesh) set up a short succession of puppet kings beginning with Saifuddin Hamzah Shah in whose name he ruled.
Being Pandua capital of Muslim rule over long time, we find several mazars and old mosques in that area.
After Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi the renowned spiritual leader who also came from Iran and settled in Pandua was Syed Shah Makhdoom Alaul Haque Pandvi. He is also known as Pandvi Alaul Haque. His mazar is in the campus of Chhoti Dargah, hardly two kms from the Bais Hazari area.
There is a cluster of mazars in the Chhoti Dargah. Important among them is the mazar of Shah Makhdoom Alaul Haque Pandvi who came from Iran to spread Islam in eastern India. Besides him, the Dargah has mazar of his son Noor Qutbe Alam and grandson Syed Zahid. The Dargah was the centre of propagation of Islam in the days after Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi and in the time of King Ganesh, says Dr Majidi. “By the efforts of these spiritual leaders lakhs of downtrodden people and Buddhists converted to Islam,” he says adding that one of the important persons who converted to Islam was none other than the son of King Ganesh.
“Noor Qutbe Alam was friend of Ganesh’s son Jadu. They studied together. Jadu converted to Islam and got the name of Jalaluddin. After the conversion King Ganesh had dispute with Shah Makhdoom Alaul Haque Pandvi. This led to the Government of India sending its army to this area. King Ganesh was defeated and fled to Dhaka now in Bangladesh. Then was established Islamic rule in Bengal and it continued for about 500 years,” Dr Majidi says.
After the defeat of King Ganesh his son Jalaluddin came to the throne of Bengal in 1415 AD, and kept Pandua his capital.
In the Eklakhi mausoleum in Pandua there is the mazar of Jalaluddin, his wife and child. The mausoleum is one the most picturesque buildings of that period.
A visit to the ruins of magnificent Muslim past in Malda and Murshidabad
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net
TCN Series: Visit to Malda and Murshidabad : Part 3
The cities of Malda and Murshidabad alternatively were the capital of the undivided Bengal (that included Bihar and Orissa also) for about 700 years – from the conquest of Bakhtiar Khilji in 1201 of Bengal till 1881 when Nawab Syed Mansur Ali Khan (known as Feradun Jah), son of Nawab Mubarak Ali Khan (known as Humayun Jah), retired as the last Nawab of the state.
The two cities still have palaces, official buildings and mosques – mostly in ruins – that give enough clues to the grandeur of the Muslim empire – run first by Afghan rulers, then Mughals and then Nawabs who most of the period ruled under the Mughal Empire in Delhi.
Historic places in Malda
Malda is the gateway of North Bengal and two cities of Malda, Gour and Pandua, had been the capital of Bengal in ancient and medieval ages. They are at equidistance in opposite direction, north and south, from today’s main town of Malda district, English Bazar. For long after Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered Bengal in 1201 AD, Malda remained the capital of Bengal. That’s why we find several Muslim monuments and mausoleums of some the rulers of that time.
Adina Mosque or Jami Masjid
Said to be the largest mosque in India, the Adina Mosque or Jami Masjid in Adina area, some 15 km from Malda town, was built in 1369 by Sultan Sikander Shah. The design of the mosque is said to be based on the great 8th century mosque of Damascus. According to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the mosque, the largest Islamic monument in the whole of Bengal, has some architectural members of some earlier structures including some temples.
The mosque has a large rectangular open courtyard surrounded by rows of arches and domes. On the north of the beautifully decorated Mehrab is a raised platform reserved for women. Adjacent to the western wall of the mosque is a projected chamber where Sikandar Shah is said to have been buried.
Qutub Shahi Mosque or Sona Masjid
The double aisled mosque Qutub Shahi Mosque or Sona Masjid has ten domes. It was built in the honour of saint Nur Qutub-e-Alam, son of saint Makhdoom Alaul Haque Pandvi, by Makhdum Shaikh, the descendant and follow of the saint. The mosque was known as Sona Masjid due to its earlier gilded wall surface and crowns of the turrets.
The Eklakhi Mausoleum is said to be the most elegant monument in Pandua. One of the first square brick tombs in Bengal, with a carved Ganesh on the doorway, it is the tomb of Jalaluddin, the convert son of King Ganesh. After the defeat of Ganesh, Jalaluddin ascended to the throne. The mausoleum also has grave of his wife and son.
Besides, there are several other historical places in Malda. They include Shahi Jama Masjid in Old Malda.
Historic places in Murshidabad
At the beginning of the Nawab era, Nawab Murshid Quli Khan made Maksudabad his capital in 1704 and renamed it as Murshidabad after his name. Barring some years, the city remained capital of the Nawab rule for almost 200 years.
The Katra Mosque, oldest and most imposing Islamic architecture in Murshidabad, is raised on a lofty platform. It was built by founder of Murshidabad, Nawab Murshid Quli Khan (1706-1725 AD) in 1723 AD. The mosque has huge domes and high minarets. It has the grave of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan below the front staircase. It is said to have been a great centre of Islamic learning.
The foundation stone of the Hazarduari Palace (it means the palace with a thousand doors) was laid in 1829 by Nawab Humayun Jah, descendent of Mir Zafar, in the presence of the representative of the then Governor General. It was completed in 1837. The three-storey palace was designed by Colonel Duncan M Leod of the Bengal Corps of Engineers and executed entirely by natives.
The Hazarduari Palace spreading over 41 acres has thousand doors (among which only 900 are real) and 114 rooms and 8 galleries. It has been built in European architectural style. The Palace was used by Nawabs for official work. It also was the residence of the high ranking British officials.
The palace is now a museum which has a collection of armoury, paintings, portraits of the Nawabs and various works of art including works of ivory.
Parallel to the Hazarduari Palace, on the northside is the Nizamat Imambara. It was built in 1847 by Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan (known as Feradun Jah), son of Humayun Jah. This was built after the Imambara built by Siraj-ud-Daula had been destroyed by fire
Who is to be blamed for backwardness of Malda and Murshidabad?
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net
TCN Series: Visit to Malda and Murshidabad, Part 4
As soon as I stepped out of Malda Town Railway Station on April 2 the first person approached me knowing about my destination was a rickshaw puller. While taking me on his rickshaw to the bus stand to catch a bus for Murshidabad, the man told me he was Ziaur Rahman. There are in fact thousands of Ziaur Rahmans in Malda and Murshidabad. The two Muslim-dominated cities in West Bengal, once abode of Nawabs and royal families, are now the mines of rickshaw pullers, tonga wallas and agricultural laborers.
In our Delhi also, you will find every second rickshaw puller hailing from Bihar or West Bengal. If from West Bengal, most probably he would be from either of the two districts. This is Sheikh Noorul Islam standing with his rickshaw in Jamia Nagar in New Delhi. Father of six, Noorul Islam who is from Noorpur area in Malda is pulling rickshaw for the last one year. He says there are a number of people from his hometown doing the same work in this city. Near him is Mohibur Rahman from Kalia Chak area in Malda. For the last one month he is pulling rickshaw in Delhi. Earlier he would work as a laborer in fields in Malda. Both have their families in their hometown.
Syed Noore Khuda, Murshidabad Secretary, Madrasa Teachers’ Association, says: Murshidabad is financially and educationally most backward in the country. Malda is not better either. Since Independence till 1977 Muslims share in government jobs decreased from 13% to 8% in West Bengal. But according to Sachar Committee report submitted in 2006, now the percentage is 2.1.
According to Census 2001, Muslims constitute 63.67% of population of Murshidabad while 49.72% of Malda.
Ghulam Kibriya Sarkar, mechanical engineer who teaches at a polytechnic in Murshidabad agrees: Muslims are very poor here. There is lack of facilities. NREGA, a central government scheme for rural employment, is not implemented properly here. Out of 100 days compulsory job, they are getting job for just 4-7 days.
Migration of Muslim elite class caused backwardness
When did the backwardness of Muslims in two districts begin? Dr Mujeebur Rahman, ex-Principal, Ziaganj College in Murshidabad, says: After Independence the district (also Malda) was given to Pakistan for three days. After that it was segregated to India. The educated and elite class left for Pakistan. Only marginalized people remained here. Muslims here were agriculturalists. They lost land to other side of the border. They became agricultural and landless laborer. Very few Muslims are in white collar jobs.
“Until 1971, the educated and intellectuals who did not find job here shifted to Pakistan but after the emergence of Bangladesh the Muslims in Murshidabad find it inevitable to remain here as the condition in Bangladesh was not good, there was crisis and lack of job and other facilities,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman.
Syed Noore Khuda gives the same reason that is lying in the past for the backwardness of the present. “The backwardness began after Independence when the elite Muslims left for East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Those who remained here became economically very weak since then. While other communities changed their lives through businesses and government jobs, Muslims couldn’t. They are now rickshaw wallas, tonga wallas and agricultural laborers,” he says.
“Majority of those living in town areas in Murshidabad are non-Muslims. Among Muslims there are teachers and madrasa teachers, who have earned little more than other members of the community. They prefer to live in the town areas. Over the last 50 years Muslim percentage in town is just 2-3,” he adds.
Economic condition in Nawab era
S M Raza Ali Khan, eldest surviving son in the 8th generation of Nawab of Bengal Mir Jafar, argues the same reason rather strongly. “50 or 60 years back there was no such poverty among Muslims in the region. People were weavers and cultivators patronized by nawabs and rajas. Scholars, educated persons and maulvis were also patronized by nawabs. Nawabs had built 700 mosques in Murshidabad and each of them was attached with a madrasa. Each madrasa was patronized by either a nawab or a begum,” says the son of the dynasty long gone, rightly boasting of the shining nawab era.
In hot season people got involved in cottage industry in making nets and jalis. They were employed in orchards and gardens of mangoes. Nawabs cared for cottage industry of achaar, chatnis and murabbas. Today there is no factory and mill in this district. And the cottage industry has almost gone extinct. There is jute crop but no jute mill, Raza Ali Khan says.
“After the fall of the nawab empire and after Independence the Indian government has done nothing to look after the people because this is a Muslim-dominated district. Another reason is that political leaders particularly Muslims and maulvis did not work or think seriously for the community which was ignorant and uneducated. They never thought to educate the masses and bring them into mainstream. They just cared for their vote,” he laments.
Is the migration of the cream of the Muslim society also responsible for the current situation? Raza Ali Khan agrees and says: “Nawabs and their families and relatives had residences in Murshidabad but their zamindaris were in Rajshahi, Silhat and Khulna (all now in Bangladesh) from where they would fetch lakhs of rupees. Bengal was divided and that portion went to Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh). So those people who had businesses there migrated to Pakistan.”
Besides, the educated members of the nawab families were employed in government offices. Murshidabad was declared to be part of Pakistan for three days. When the government asked them about their choice of the country, they opted for Pakistan because Murshidabad was declared Pakistan. But after three days the district was returned to India but the option was not changed, so they had to migrate to Pakistan, Raza Ali Khan says and adds, after partition the government was reluctant to care for poor people and their education
“Due to economic impoverishment the educational awareness has not been up to the mark. The number of primary schools in ratio with population is very low. Due to economic backwardness, high school going students find it difficult to continue. It’s a vicious circle. Educational and economic backwardness are going side by side,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman who has retired as principal of Ziaganj college in the district.
“Most of Muslim students now are first generation learners. They are thinking to improve their lot through education,” he says.
Syed Noore Khuda, who teaches in a high madrasa, blames the government for the educational backwardness of the district. He says: “Total primary schools in the district are 3174 and higher secondary madrasas are 500. Given the size of population the numbers are very low. Required is more than 1000 high schools but there are just 500 only.”
“So poor are people that Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Sarva Shiksha Mission did not get much success here as children dropped after some initial classes because parents needed money to keep the home kitchen burning. The children are working in brick fields or in construction sector or in fields,” Syed Noore Khuda says.
S M Raza Ali Khan says: “The current educational condition not very satisfactory. There is no high educational institution, no university in the district of Murshidabad which had a galaxy of learned people, a nucleus of education. But after partition the government did not open any institute just because the district was Muslim dominated.”
Original Murshidabad has no institution, no college. The government offices have been shifted to new district headquarters Behrampur where Muslims are about 2-3%.
Three decades of Left Front government and Muslims
Over the last thirty years the Left Front led by CPM has ruled West Bengal but the condition of Muslims in Malda and Murshidabad has not changed. The political representatives (from Panchayat to Parliament) of these two districts are either from Left or Congress (majority of them, and many Muslims, from Congress over years) but they could not help the community improve their lot.
Has the state government been biased regarding development of Murshidabad and Malda as they are represented by Congress? Syed Noore Khuda says, yes. “The state government has not been honest in implementing welfare schemes in Murshidabad and Malda as these districts have generally been represented by the Congress.”
Dr Mujeebur Rahman does not agree that the state government of Left Front has been biased regarding development of Murshidabad and Malda. “I don’t think so. But the schemes and projects implemented by bureaucrats and among them there is apathy towards Muslims, there is indifference about Muslim community. Along with it Muslims have been not very careful about health and sanitation issues.”
“What is irony is that the districts are mostly represented by Muslims yet they are backward. Malda is at the bottom of literacy and Murshidabad just over it.”
He says that over some years there has been some improvement in economic and educational condition of Muslims in the two districts.
“After the formation of School Service Commission and educational awareness spreading among the community, Muslim youths have got some job in teaching field. Over one decade, Muslims boys are getting jobs in schools. In ratio to total population, however, it is very scanty.”
Educational awareness spreading: Silver lining in dark Malda and Murshidabad
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net
TCN series: visit to Malda and Murshidabad: Part 5
Imam Hussain in Murshidabad is doing Masters in English. Rafeequl Islam, another youth in the district, is doing Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. In Malda, while Muhammad Arafat has got enrolled in B.Ed. after doing B.A. in history, his friends Sirajul Islam, Ghulamur Rahman and Ansar Ali, all in teens, are in Class XI wherein along with other subjects they are studying Arabic language also as they want to do honors in the same subject.
The new generation of the Muslim community in these two Muslim-dominated districts has got to know the importance of education. “People are thinking that without education their lot cannot be improved. Today in schools and colleges, most Muslim students are first generation learners. This shows the current thinking of the community,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman, ex-Principal, Ziaganj College, Murshidabad.
However, the present educational condition in the two districts is not good. The literacy rate in Murshidabad whose 63.67% population is Muslim, is just 55.05% while Malda’s case is worse with the district consisting 49.72% Muslim population has only 40.97% literate people. “Current educational condition is not satisfactory. In ratio to population, number of primary schools here is very low compared to the nation and other districts in West Bengal,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman adding the dropout rate gets increasing as students cross primary level.
Ghulam Kibriya Sarkar, 27-year-old mechanical engineer who is currently teaching at a polytechnic in Murshidabad, says: Education level is low as people have no money to send their children to schools. There is also lack of awareness about education. After a few years at schools they send them to field to work.”
“We are convincing people to send their children to school. We are running some educational awareness programs. We are telling them that relief materials will not help them long. They should educate their children. We have formed an NGO Universal Unique Trust for that purpose,” he says.
Dr Mujeebur Rahman admits: “Of late there has been some change in thinking of people.” People have come to know the importance of education, and they are now sending their children to schools and madrasas. Besides government run mainstream educational institutions, there are also madrasas aided by the government and some run by individuals or trusts wherein Muslim students study.
This is Malda Model High Madrasa in Malda town area. In this madrasa (that runs classes V-XII) there are 650 students. Up to class X there is no non-Muslim student as Arabic language as a subject is compulsory in these classes. In Class XI and XII Arabic is not compulsory; so non-Muslim students also seek admission.
“There are three types of madrasas run by the state government in West Bengal --High Madrasa, Senior Madrasa and Junior Madrasa. In Malda there 69 such madrasas,” says Mustafa Kamal, Asst. Principal of this madrasa.
Regarding subjects in Class V-X, Mustafa Kamal says: We follow the syllabus of West Bengal Madrasa Board. We teach three languages, Bengali, English and Arabic as well as Political Science, Maths, Life Science, History, Geography and Computer. In class XI and XII we follow the syllabus of West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education.
The Malda Model Madrasa, which is a government aided minority institution, also runs some vocational courses like cell phone repairing.
After Intermediate where do students go from madrasas? “Because of Arabic language being compulsory in classes from V-X, a lot of students study the language in higher classes also. Many of them do honors in Arabic from some colleges in Malda or Maulana Azad College in Kolkata,” says Mustafa Kamal who himself is M.Sc. and B.Ed.
Besides government aided madrasas, there are some private madrasas also in the two districts. In Malda’s Pandua area there is a big private madrasa called Al-Jameatul Jalalia Al-Alaiya Al-Ashrafia. It is run by a charitable society Makhdoom Ashraf Mission.
There are 465 students in the madrasa and all get free education, food and lodging. “This is a fully charitable society. Students get education, food and lodging free of cost. We run the madrasa with donations we get from public, says Muhammad Jirgis, joint secretary of the Mission.
Students here study Arabic language, Islamic studies and Maths and English as compulsory subjects. Established by saint Mustafa Ashraf Jilani in 1994, the madrasa has attracted learners from Malda, Kolkata, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Patna and Saharsa also.
The computers have been financed by Bengal government while the computer course is being funded by National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), a central government body.
Over some years, several private schools and educational missions have also come up in these two districts. Mostly run by Muslim individuals or societies they offer quality education at a price.
“It is an irony that missions are running outside Murshidabad but they have been sponsored and financed by two industrial houses of Murshidabad – Potaka Industry and Howrah Bidi. They are funding Al-Ameen Mission, Al-Hilal Mission and several other missions. They are mostly in Howrah, Hoogly, 24 Parganas and other parts of the state. Of late, they have taken interest in Murshidabad. They have opened branches here and started activities,” says Dr Mujeebur Rahman.
Al-Ameen Mission also runs a hostel with 50 students from science stream in the premises of Malda Model Madrasa. The mission prepares the students for Intermediate.
In Behrampur, district headquarters of Murshidabad, there is Guidance coaching centre. Run by Guidance Foundation of Kolkata, the coaching centre in Behrampur prepares students for entrance tests for engineering and medical courses. “Guidance, which prepares students for WBJEE/AIEEE/AIPMT, has 150 Muslim students and 15 others. Of Muslims, there 10 are girls,” says Muhammad Hasanullah, coordinator of the coaching centre. He further says that the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs is providing funds to the coaching centre for free coaching to 400 candidates belonging to the minority communities” for high level entrance tests like WBJEE/AIEEE/AIPMT.
Ganges eroding Malda, Murshidabad, rendering lakhs of people homeless
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net
TCN series: Visit to Malda and Murshidabad: Part 6
If migration of local elite Muslim class to Pakistan in 1947 – and constant apathy since then of Indian governments towards the two Muslim-dominated districts of Malda and Murshidabad in West Bengal presumably in revenge – is a major reason of underdevelopment, illiteracy and acute impoverishment here today, no less big reason of poverty of lakhs of people is the erosion of their thousands of acres of lands by the Ganges over about two decades.
The River Ganga is fast eroding agricultural lands and habitations on the south-western part of Malda. The river – officially called Padma when it touches down Murshidabad at its northern-most point and flows along the eastern boundary of the district – is doing the same job of destruction on the eastern side of Murshidabad. While Ganga separates Malda from undivided Bihar the Padma is the divider between Murshidabad and Bangladesh.
The erosion-affected areas in the two districts are heavily Muslim dominated, and so those who lost their agricultural lands and homes are generally Muslims. This is believed to be one big reason why the authorities remained almost indifferent to the devastations, and did not come up with proper relief and rehabilitation programs.
Malda being eroded
To witness how the Ganga is eroding Malda and Murshidabad TwoCircles.net visited some affected areas there earlier this month.
On 5th April we were on way to Paglaghat, a bank of Ganga, 15 km from Malda town. When we entered the straight road leading to the bank of the river we found about 10 km stretch dotted with shacks on either side of the road. Once the residents of these huts had acres of land, now they are forced to live in clusters of shacks made of bamboo on either government land or on private rented land. “Most of them are Muslims. Most of the families are forced to live in single-room huts. Parents are living with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the same room, says Noorul Islam Majidi, our one-time guide.” Many are forced to live on the road side. “Several maulanas and imams who would once deliver speeches in religious programs are now forced to live in the huts,” Majidi adds. When they have no proper means to meet their both ends who talks about education of their children? Village after village have been gulped down by the river.
When we reach Paglaghat we find children and women bathing in the river. Some of them have bathed and are coming out. The Ganga has intruded 12 km deep into Malda at this point. This has rendered thousands of people homeless. We talk to some children whose parents and other family members are living in the huts on the bank.
These children have just come out of the river and are half naked. One of them is Mohsin Shaikh. His father now catches fish to keep body and soul together. Rajab Ali’s father is jobless while Inamul Sheikh’s father is agricultural labour. This is general situation here. “About 90% of the affected people are Muslims. Their agricultural lands have been washed away by the river but the government has not done relief and rehabilitation work properly,” says Majidi.
When the Ganga hits stone-walled area of Rajmahal district in Jharkhand (in the west of Malda with Ganga in between), it turns back to the east and consequently usurps lands of Malda as the embankment areas here have not been fortified.
Of late, the government has started work on embankment. At present they are fortifying the banks at Manikchak area, about 50 km from main town of Malda. And this is just to save Malda town which has just 2% Muslim population. “The government is making all efforts to save the town as it has businesses of other community. Bu they are not working to protect Kaliachak, hub of Muslim businesses in Malda,” says Majidi and warns pointing to the river: If it flows over the Paglaghat area it will sweep Kaliachak away into Bangladesh.
Erosion in Murshidabad
The Padma River that flows around the northern and eastern wall of the district has so far destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural land and habitation of local people. Like erosion-affected people in Malda, Muslims are overwhelming majority of the erosion affected people in Murshidabad also.
TCN visited Jalangi area about 70 km in the east from Behrampur, district headquarters of Murshidabad. Here too we find cluster after cluster of shacks and huts wherein are residing people who were once owner of acres of land.
We are walking on an embankment in Jalangi. On our right is dry extension of Padma River and on left are clusters of huts erected by people whose farmlands and habitation were gulped by the river. On the long embankment there are several villages.
This is Tolltoli village. An elderly Muslim tells us how his land was washed away by the river. Now he has a hut on the embankment. “In the beginning the government had given us 24 kg rice a month and a little help to make hut. Since long they have not come back to find out about us,” he says. He lives in the hut with his son and daughter-in-law. His son is agricultural labor.
This is Shaheedul Mondal from the same village. Once owner of 60 bigha of land Mondal is now agricultural laborer and lives in hut on rented land. His four sons work in fields in Kerala
Next village is Paraspur on the same embankment. Khilafat Mondal has just come out of a ditch in the middle of the dry extension of Padma. He had gone there to bath. Ask him about his old home, he will point finger to far east in the direction of Bangladesh. He was living in India on the bank of Padma River that separates the area from Bangladesh. The river has eaten into his 120 bighas of land with banana trees in four bighas and now he is living in a hut.
Starvation deaths in Murshidabad
In early months of 2005 the situation was very grim here. People were dying of hunger as they had nothing to eat. Their farmlands and homes were washed away by the river and the government was not paying attention. The government was not accepting that there were starvation deaths for impending local elections.
Even after elections the government remained apathetic. Almost all affected people deserved BPL card but it was issued to very few of them. The affected persons were not properly rehabilitated. The poverty eradication program was not implemented either. NREGA, central government rural employment guarantee scheme, was also not implemented properly.
Zafrul Islam Khan’s initiative
The news about starvation deaths in the Muslim dominated Murshidabad was broken on Zafrul Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette, by Hong-Kong based Asian Human Rights Commission on March 7, 2005. Khan immediately forwarded the mail to President of India, Chief Minister of West Bengal, National Human Rights Commission, state Human Rights Commission, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, National Commission for Minorities but he got no response. He published an article in his fortnightly English language tabloid, yet he failed to stir the rulers and the ruled.
What was a shameful act on the part of the CPM-led Left Front state government was that it knew about the starvation deaths but was not acting. Zafrul Islam Khan came to know through local media reports that state government was aware but not acting for political reasons. Municipal elections were due in May 2005. By acting on the issue they did not want to accept the reality. Khan immediately sent his representative to the area to get first hand repot and arrange relief. Khan himself visited the area in mid-April that year.
After visiting hunger death affected areas in Murshidabad he filed a PIL with Supreme Court praying it to intervene and direct centre and state for immediate relief. Sadly, little came out of the PIL. But he did not sit down. He opened a charity in Ghoshpara of Jalangi area in May that year and started weekly free grains distribution program for 360 most deserved people. The program run by Charity Alliance has continued till date without a break.
Overall situation in Jalangi today is not good. There is no work and no industry in the area. There is some occasional agricultural work. “NREGA is not being implemented properly. Out of 100 days guaranteed work under the scheme people get work only for 5-7 days,” says Ghulam Kibriya Sarkar, Ghoshpara resident. The situation has forced working men to move to other states like Kerala for work.