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The curious case of sprouting madrasas

india Updated: Feb 17, 2008 00:26 IST
Manish Tiwari

Indian security agencies see a design in the rapid growth of the number of mosques and madrasas (seminaries) on both sides of the India-Nepal border. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which guards the border on the Indian side, estimates there are about 2,000 mosques and madrasas on the Indian side and over 820 in Nepal. Most of them are said to have sprung up in the past seven to eight years. In 2000, the Indian Task Force on Border Management had put the figures at only 343 mosques and 300 madrasas within 10 km of the border on the Indian side, and 282 mosques and 181 madrasas on the Nepal side.

A communiqué dated May 14, 2007 issued by the SSB inspector-general (Patna frontier) to senior officers in Bihar states: “Their plan is to build mosques and madrasas along the Indo-Nepal border to facilitate and enforce a Taliban-type system in the community.”

Matin Salfi, chairman of the Tauheed Educational Trust that runs over 15 madrasas in Kishanganj, however, counters this: “Such rumours are being spread by certain communal elements for the past six years to demoralise the Muslims. I know that a number of madrasas and mosques have come up in this area, but they are only for a noble cause.”

But many disagree. Ajay Singh, BJP MLA from the Raxaul constituency, says: “There is no problem with the construction of mosques, but the strategic manner in which they are proliferating along the border, highways and important places is indicative of evil designs.”

The children in the madrasas are believed to be told not to watch television or movies, as these spread an “un-Islamic culture”. On this, Salfi says, “People here are very poor, they can’t afford TV, radio or the Internet... Anyway I am against co-education and commercial education.” But when asked from where do these poor people get huge funds to construct the madrasas or mosques, he says: “Some businessmen from trade hubs like Murshidabad in West Bengal have been supporting us.”