More Muslims in Gujarat are concentrating on higher education after the 2002 riots, and Yunus Patel would like to thank Narendra Modi for it.
He is not joking.
“I won’t vote for Narendra Modi but I love his government. It is the hostile attitude of the state that has forced the Muslim community to look towards education as its only saviour," the 40-year-old, who was once a gambling den operator, said.
Yunus has plans to get his daughter admitted to a dental college to be opened by the Bombay Patel Welfare Society in Bharuch. The riots have "fuelled an educational revolution among Muslims here", he added.
After 2002, Gujarat has also seen more educational institutions being set up by the minority community.
The Bombay Patel Welfare Society, which runs one of Gujarat's largest Muslim hospitals in Bharuch, will set up a dental college here. The society also runs an English-medium school where over 500 children study, the majority Muslims.
"The community has realised that the only way of getting empowered is through education. Reservation or government sops are not going to help unless there is a change in attitude towards education within the community. Surprisingly, the riots of 2002 acted as a catalyst for this to happen," said Mohammed Patel, a former MLA and president of Patel welfare society.
The 2001 census shows a literacy rate of 73.9 per cent among Gujarat’s Muslims, higher than the community’s national average of 59 per cent. "The literacy level of Muslims is high in Gujarat. But before 2002, you would not find any institute of higher learning being run by us. Now, most of the new Muslim institutes coming up are concentrating on higher education,” said Basheer Chowkiwala of the Mumshi Charitable Trust.
Muslim trusts are also concentrating to improving the literacy rate among the women of their community. Muslim female literacy stands at 63.5 per cent, again higher than the national average of 54 per cent.
The Mumshi Trust has opened a BEd college, a primary teachers' college and a science college for girls in Bharuch, all this year.
The Surat Young Muslim Graduate Association, which teaches over 5,500 Muslim children, has plans to expand operations to make education more reachable to the Muslim masses.
While many trusts function with minimum state help, some complained of government hurdles. “The government didn’t allow us to open a homeopathic college.... Even a dental college had to face opposition from the bureaucrats,” said Mohammed Patel.