A storm is brewing in Bengal’s educational politics with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders planning to move the Calcutta High Court, alleging state madrasas are teaching an “incomplete history” of the nation that only begins with the Muslim period and omits the Vedic era and the age of emperor Ashoka altogether.
The move could have political implications as the ruling Trinamool Congress enjoys rock solid support from minorities and chief minister Mamata Banerjee has often said she will not tolerate any attack on any community.
RSS leaders said prominent lawyers had already been consulted and a case could be filed in a week as the syllabus was a violation of the Constitution. “We have collected books, syllabus and documents and have held meetings with advocates. Article 30 of the Constitution, which gives administrative independence to minority institutions does not say that such bifurcated history can be taught,” said a senior RSS leader, who did not want to be identified. “At secondary and higher secondary levels, where the certification is given, how can the syllabus omit ancient Indian history?”
The West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education is an autonomous body under the state's minority affairs and madrasa education department with over 600 Islamic seminaries under it and nearly 500,000 students. The state also has over 10,000 unrecognised madrasas.
After the Burdwan blasts last year, a small section of unregulated madrasas came under the National Investigation Agency’s scanner amid concerns that Jamat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh members were allegedly indoctrinated and trained in firearms there.
The latest controversy follows a Maharashtra government move to declare about 100,000 students “out-of-school” children as madrasas that do not offer maths, science and social studies will not be recognised as formal schools.
Sangh leaders in Bengal argued that if the madrasa board that operated under the state government prescribed a truncated syllabus, thousands of unregulated madrasas probably taught an even more distorted history of the nation.
“If students do not learn about the glorious history of Samrat Ashoka, Panchsheel, the Vedic era how will they grow up to be proper Indians? At the madrasas truncated history is being taught where it all starts from the Muslim period. Indian citizens have a right to move court on the issue,” said Jishnu Basu, RSS karyavaha (general secretary, south Bengal).
The West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education denied the allegations, saying the state’s madrasas taught the state board syllabus that is followed widely in many schools.
Board president Mohammad Fazle Rabbi said it was prepared to fight it out in court. "Their allegations are baseless. They should have contacted us and we would have happily illuminated them about our syllabus. We do teach history of the country from all periods. History is taught from the lower to higher classes. We will fight them out in the court," Rabbi said.
“We follow the Madhyamik board syllabus for most parts of our teaching and proper history is taught. In the secondary stage (Alim) and higher secondary stage (Fazil) it is theology-based study and Muslim history is a part,” Rabbi said.
Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Idris Ali said the RSS was trying to instigate people over a non-issue.
"Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, there is peace and communal harmony in Bengal. Here in schools and madrasas proper education is given according to law. If they (RSS) want to go to court, they are free to do it. They will always try to create tension," Ali said.