The media representation of Malegaon
provides a metaphorical description of all that is bad for a
civilised society, whether it is the communal – terror tag,
backwardness and religious conservatism. While all genuine needs
of a bustling urban space becomes invisible in the media
descriptions of Malegaon, all the negative images of the same
space is abundant in the public knowledge.
While referring to my
recent visit to Malegaon to a prominent political scientist in
India, the natural response came in the form of an inquiry “Is the
place peaceful these days?”
The invisibility of Malegaon is not
only restricted to the media; policy makers, the political class
and even the ever boasted sensitive civil society are indifferent
to the concerns of Malegaon and its hapless residents.
Malegaon came to the limelight recently due to the Bomb Blasts of
2006 and the repeated shifting blame games and resultant arrests
of nine Muslims from Malegaon five years before in connection with
the blasts. The Anti Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra and later the
National Investigation Agency (NIA) found evidences of a different
kind of terrorism than the Islamic one resulted in arrest of
members affiliated to groups having sympathetic or symbiotic
relationship with Hindu fundamentalist ideologies for Malegaon
blasts in 2008 and its connections with other blasts in the
country including the blasts in Samjhauta Express, Ajmer Dargah
and Mecca Masjid all in 2007 and Malegaon 2006 are being probed.
Though the MCOCA court is currently processing the bail
application of the nine Muslim accused, they have already spent
five years behind the bars and are still waiting for justice to be
done to them. The question is, even if these accused are granted
bail or even acquitted, will the damage done to their families in
terms of their lost livelihood, respect, dignity and above all the
social stigma it has attracted will ever be addressed?
Malegaon is home to almost one lakh fifty thousand powerlooms.
These units produce more than one crore meters of cloths a day and
employ about five lakh people. Most of the looms in operation in
Malegaon are obsolete looms rejected from other parts of the
country, repaired and made functional by extremely efficient
mechanics of Malegaon.
Even after repeated attempts by social
activists and community leaders from Malegaon for policy
interventions to upgrade the looms to facilitate the growth of the
industry, no concrete steps have been taken so far by the
government. The proposal for setting up an MIDC centre for
Powerloom units in Malegaon has not become a reality even after
several years of hectic pushing by the local community leaders due
to the unfavourable changes in the Industrial policy.
At the same time,
Malegaon has serious deficit of higher education facilities.
Almost 17,000 students pass out of HSC every year from Malegaon. A
rough estimate of available seats for under-graduate studies in
Malegaon stands at around 4200 in the entire Taluka. A good
majority of the remaining children either drop out of their
education where several of the male members join the powerloom
industry and for most of the girls that is the end of their
studies. Parents are not so comfortable in sending their children
especially the girls out of their township for higher studies.
Some informal data from Malegaon also suggests that among the
total number of students reach the HSC level majority are girls.
Boys who drop out at different levels join the powerloom industry.
The recent proposal for setting up a sub-centre of Aligarh Muslim
University (AMU) in Maharashtra evoked enthusiastic response from
the people of Malegaon. Some of the prominent leaders associated
with Noble Education and Welfare Society (NEWS) and Citizens for
Development and Peace (CDP) with the strong support from the
grass-roots have taken this issue very seriously and worked
towards identifying required land for the centre, procuring all
the necessary permissions from different departments and getting
endorsements for the same by the Department of Higher & Technical
Education, the District Collector, Member of Parliament and local MLAs. As the preparations for visit of the AMU team for inspection
of the identified land gained momentum, other sites were also
proposed for consideration. Khuldabad near Aurangabad was among
the prominent sites.
There is no doubt that setting up of a sub-centre of Aligarh Muslim
University (AMU) either in Malegaon or in Aurangabad will benefit
the minority community in substantive ways. However the AMU centre
coming up in Malegaon has many long term benefits not only in
terms of providing higher education facilities for the people of
Malegaon which comprise almost 75 percent Muslims, it gives
tremendous opportunities for reparation of neglect of a
stigmatised site such as Malegaon for several decades.
the lack of higher education facilities in Malegaon compared to
Aurangabad gives all the more good reason for grabbing such an
Apart from the existence of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
University in Aurangabad there are government engineering college,
medical college, dental college, women’s engineering college,
polytechnic in operation for providing professional education for
the people of Aurangabad. Moreover there are several private
professional educational institutions within the city of
Aurangabad and its outskirts.
In the case of Malegaon, there are
no mainstream professional educational institutions in the taluka.
One private engineering college and a private medical college are
located in Chandvad approximately 35 kms from Malegaon.
Considering the cultural and religious specificities of the
locality, setting up an AMU centre in Malegaon would have been a
big step forward for boosting development and social
transformation of this city and its people.
As the news of AMU
expert team’s communiqué regarding the recommendation of Khuldabad
site near Aurangabad spread, the people of Malegaon are unable to
understand what could be the reason for not choosing Malegaon for
the same. One is wondering whether we are losing a golden
opportunity for reparation which may result in strengthening of a
sense of social and political alienation and denial of development
opportunities for the people of Malegaon.
For them, the concerns
about the backwardness of Muslim communities and localities raised
by Sachar Committee Report remain a rhetoric as the situation of
their backwardness are never being addressed in concrete terms
despite there are several opportunities came the way.
Dr. P.K.Shajahan is Assistant Professor with Centre for Community
Organisation and Development Practice, Tata Institute of Social
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org