‘Dubious Funding’ and ‘Unrecognised’ Madrasas — An Excuse to Launch Assault on Islamic Seminary?

The BJP should first come clean on Rs 13,000 crore it received through electoral bonds, said the UP Congress minority cell chief.
Image Source : PTI/ Representational (File)
Image Source : PTI/ Representational (File)

Lucknow: A Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has recommended closure of more than 8,000 madrasas on the charges of “dubious funding”. Constituted in October last year, the probing team led by Mohit Agarwal, additional director general of police (anti-terrorist squad) was mandated to disclose suspected misuse of alleged foreign donations received by unregistered madrasas in the state.

The report submitted by the SIT said that most of the religious seminaries are located near the Indo-Nepal border in districts such as Maharajganj, Shravasti, Gonda etc. The management or caretakers of these madrasas allegedly failed to provide information on the sources of their funding and disclose donors’ identity.

There are around 24,000 madrassas in the state, of which over 16,500 are recognised by the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrassa Education. Around 8,449 madrassas are said to be functioning without registration with the board. 

Speaking to The Mooknayak, the board’s Chairman Iftekhar Ahmed Javed said, “I am yet to see the report. There are different numbers doing the rounds, some say it’s 13,000, while others say the number is even higher.”

Zaman Khan, General Secretary, Teachers Association Madrasa Arabia, Uttar Pradesh
Zaman Khan, General Secretary, Teachers Association Madrasa Arabia, Uttar Pradesh

‘Unrecognized Madrasas Not Illegal’

Can a religious seminary, be it a madrassa or a Veda Patashala, be called illegal if it is not recognised by the government?

Zaman Khan, general secretary of the Teachers’ Association Madaris Arabiya, claimed such institutions enjoy exemption from mandatory registration under the Right to Education Act, 2009.

“Madrasas and Vedic Pathshalas have been exempted from government recognition under the RTE; and therefore, such seminaries cannot be called illegal if it is not recognised,” he said, pointing out that that the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow, a world renowned Islamic seminary, is also unrecognised.

The Yogi government had in 2022 directed district magistrates to conduct a survey of unrecognised madrasas following a report released by the state’s minority department that a number of Muslim religious are receiving foreign funding.

With the stringent Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in place, an institution can receive funds from abroad only upon furnishing an FCRA certificate — which is issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). 

“It is transparent as it enables the government to keep an eye on every single monetary inflow from abroad. The SIT should reveal if there is any funding to these madrasas from the Hawala route,” he added.

Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, a world-renowned Islamic seminary is also unrecognised.
Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, a world-renowned Islamic seminary is also unrecognised.

Foreign Funding — a Tool to Malign Madrasas?

Shahnawaz Alam, president of the minority cell of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, explained the sources of funding involved in madrasas.

“The money required for construction of madrasas, mandirs (temples) and dharamshala (public rest houses) is collected as donation from ordinary people, who try to pay in best of their capacity. Though difficult, yet the management largely keeps records or even Rs 5-10 as they give donors a receipt of the amount offered,” he told The Mooknayak.

Temples, mosques, madrasas and dharamshalas also have donation boxes wherein devotees willingly drop money without any publicity.

“How can one give details of such fundings?” he asked.     

Taking a swipe at the BJP for receiving unaccounted funds via electoral funds, which has recently been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, he said the incumbent BJP should first disclose the source of Rs 13,000 crore it received through electoral bonds.

“Only then will it have the moral right to know the source of fundings of others,” he added. 

Alam recalled that earlier in 1999 and 2000, the BJP governments in the state under Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh too had released such reports to malign the reputation of madrasas and show it in bad light.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, after scrapping the BJP-led Centre’s electoral bonds scheme of anonymous political funding, calling it “unconstitutional” on February 15, had asked the State Bank of India (SBI) to give it the details of the electoral bonds purchased political parties since April 12, 2019 till date to the Election Commission — which was directed to publish the information on its official website by March 13.  

However, the SBI has so far not complied with the order — seeking extension of the deadline till June 30. The top court is yet to hear the plea filed by the state lender.

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