'Wear skull cap, grow beard': Talibani diktat to Kolkata madrasa head

  • Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Jun 13, 2015 16:55 IST

The state government has failed to ensure security to the head of a government-aided madrasa in Kolkata who was assaulted by a frenzied mob three months ago.

After failing to provide a conducive environment for him to go and teach at the Watgunge madrasa, the education department has asked him to register attendance at the office of the district inspector of schools.

While the commissioner of Kolkata Police has written in a report filed before the minorities’ commission that Kaji Masum Akhtar, the headmaster, could come under attack even if the police escorted him to and from the madrasa, sources in the state education department told HT the government had to take ad hoc measures to help Akhtar retain his service because reinstating him at the madrasa was a difficult option.

“There was no workable solution in sight. We got reports that some local fundamentalists asked Akhtar to wear skull cap and grow a beard before he planned to return to the school,” a senior official at the education department said. “The department is considering his application for a transfer.”

Akhtar came under attack on March 26 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. Incidentally, this attack came barely a few months after the managing committee of the school recommended his name for the state government’s Shiksha Ratna award (for the best teacher in the state) and a local club felicitated him for exceptional contribution as the head of the institution.

“Members of the managing committee told us that he would be allowed to join the school only after he started wearing skull caps and Islamic attire and grew a beard. They asked us to mail them photographs showing him in Islamic appearance so that the local religious heads could decide whether he proved religious enough to be allowed to attend school,” his wife, Resika Akhtar, a homemaker, told HT on Friday.

While the family is thankful to the state government that it allowed Akhtar to mark attendance at a different government office, they are appalled at the way Akhtar has been thrown out of his official posting: Talpukur Ara High Madrasa in Metiabruz area of Kolkata.

“It appears local Muslims of the area have become adamant not to allow Kaji Masum Akhtar to enter the area as well as the madrasa. Hence, there is every possibility of breach of peace and law and order problem in and around the school and assault on him if the teacher returns to the school even with escort,” the commissioner of police wrote in his report to the member-secretary of West Bengal Minorities’ Commission.

Contacted by HT, Sirajul Islam Mondal, secretary of the managing committee of the madrasa, declined to comment.

According to his wife, Akhtar has been “a victim of progressive thinking” and faced trouble even while trying to make singing the national anthem mandatory before the classes started.

“Several of his columns in leading Bengali dailies irked fundamentalists. One particular article in which he called for demolition of all madrasas that harboured terrorists angered them the most. He also earned their wrath by speaking up against issues like the trend of early marriages of girls in the locality,” wife Resika said.

Akhtar refused to comment on government policies. “I hope good sense will prevail among the people of Bengal and the likes of the Talibans won’t get a place here,” he told HT.

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