MANDASAUR: There is a picture of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, displayed prominently on the wall in the Principal’s office. Outside is a blackboard on which is inscribed a quote from the Brihadarnyaka Upanishad (Asato Maa Sadgamaya) and one from the Hadith (Knowledge is the greatest wealth.)
Gyan Sagar is one of the 128 madrasas run by a group of women in and around Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district. In 78 of these madrasas, Hindu students outnumber their Muslim friends (over 55 per cent of the students are Hindu), while 630 of the 865 teachers employed by the group are Hindu.
Set up in 1992 by Shahzad Qureshi, Madrasa Firdaus initially used to impart religious education and offered free tuition to poor students from other schools.
“We were educating children from poor families. A lot of poor Hindu families wanted to enroll their children in our schools, but were concerned about religious education,” says NMM chairperson Talat Qureshi “That is when we thought of reviving India’s older system of madrasas that offered subsidised education, and where such legends as Munshi Premchand, Raja Rammohun Roy, Bharatendu Harishchandra and Pandit Ramchandra Shukla had their education,” says Dr. Qureshi, a dentist by profession. As a result, Hindu religion is a compulsory subject for Hindu students studying in these study centres, while Muslim students have to study and pass Deeniyat.
Read more: Communal Harmony