Patna: Away from swank
colleges and intimidating fee structures, a number of Hindu
students in Bihar are lining up at madrassas to pursue higher
education, thanks to revamped courses, nominal fees and job
opportunities in the Gulf.
"I will complete Alim (equivalent to graduation) degree course
from a madrassa. It is affordable and will provide an opportunity
to enrich my knowledge," 19-year-old Sanjay, the son of a Hindu
trader in Bettiah district, told IANS.
Sanjay took the plunge after topping the Class 12 Maulvi
examination conducted by the Bihar Madrassa Education Board in the
non-Muslim category this year.
Sanam Kumari, 18, a Dalit girl, also joined a madrassa after she
secured third rank in Maulvi exam.
Ask her why a madrassa and pat comes the reply. "My aim is to
become an Urdu teacher," says Sanam, the daughter of a farmer in
West Champaran district.
Madrassa board officials say non-Muslims, particularly upper caste
Brahmins in the Mithilanchal region of north Bihar, are keen on
sending their children to madrassas to learn Arabic, Persian,
Islamic traditions along with other modern subjects with an eye on
jobs in the Gulf and in the embassies of Muslim nations.
The enrolment of Hindus at madrassas is increasing.
Maulana Ajaj Ahmad, chairman of the Madrassa Education Board of
Bihar, told IANS: "Non-Muslims, particularly Hindu boys and girls
in large numbers, are studying in different madrassas across the
state. It is a positive development as their enrolment is
increasing every year."
The trend began about a decade ago. According to sources, Bihar
has over 4,000 madrassas, including 1,127 state-run Islamic
schools where students are provided free books and mid-day meals.
"After a few Hindu students passed from the seminaries, they
propagated our humane approach. In fact, we are not teaching
anything against any religion or anything anti-national as is
claimed by some vested interests to defame us," Ahmad said.
Hindu fundamentalist organisations have frequently accused
madrassas, particularly those along the India-Nepal border, of
being nurseries of terror.
"But after their children joined madrassas, Hindus are finding
much to their surprise that these seminaries do not preach hatred
towards them or their beliefs," he added.
Ahmad said Hindu students were doing very good in board
examinations. "A Hindu girl, Anjali Raj, secured the first rank in
Class 10 (Fauquania) level examination in the non-Muslim category
this year. Her performance was amazing," he said.
Madrassa Board's examination controller Mohammad Mustafa said like
Muslim girls, Hindu girls have also outperformed boys in
examinations held by the board.
This year, over 40 Hindu students cleared the Fauquania
examination and 16 Hindu students cleared Class 12 (Maulvi)
Ahmad said the seminaries attract both the elite and the
downtrodden among Hindus. "Madrassas provide education at the
doorstep free of cost, which is specially attractive to the poor
and marginalised sections like Dalits and backwards."
The state government recently decided to provide financial support
to 2,700 unaided madrassas.
According to the first-ever status paper brought out by the Bihar
State Madrassa Education Board, there are only 32 madrassas for
girls under the government-aided category and 576 in the unaided
According to the 2001 Census report, Muslim women have a literacy
rate of 50.1 percent in India. The situation in Bihar is even
grimmer with the percentage dropping to 31.5 percent.
Though the central government began the process of modernising
madrassas way back in 1994, the Bihar government introduced it in
Under the modernisation scheme, the course was revised to keep it
in tune with the curriculum prescribed by the Bihar School
Examination Board and the Central Board of Secondary Education.
"Now we teach all the modern subjects, including the sciences,
social science, mathematics," Ahmad said.
Sanjay, who secured 893 marks in the Maulvi exam, said: "I will be
entitled to a teacher's job in government schools and will qualify
for private jobs after I complete Alim. Besides, I can pursue an
MBA as well."
(Imran Khan can be contacted at