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Aug 23, 2003
Mainstream and the Muslims

One of the frequent opinions expressed in India is that ‘Muslims must join the mainstream’. It is seldom explained what ‘mainstream’ is though. Is it undiluted, constantly verifiable patriotism and blind loyalty to India? Hindus in their millions will not pass such a test or else we wouldn’t be having so much negative opinions expressed on India. Or is that one religion is mainstream and not others? If it were ‘common laws’ that will mean ‘mainstream’ , then how many sub sects of Hinduism will agree to join it? So defining what is ‘mainstream’ is riven with problems.

But there is one mainstream about which no one will have a quarrel. It is ‘education’. As a perennial mainstream it can bear everyone to safe and rational havens. When a dominant rule ends people associated with it, lose their privileges and do become alienated. Anglo-Indians are a case in proof. Muslims too have felt disowned and stranded. They decided the ‘system’ was against them and withdrew into ghettos. It is a measure of India’s success as a democracy that Muslims have now identified ‘education’ as a beneficial mainstream. There is growing evidence for those who will care to look.

Take Kashmir. You cannot but be struck by the facility with which even nominal graduates from there communicate while those from other states struggle. Kashmir’s educational institutions turn out numerous competent professionals. During the years of strife many Muslim parents sent their children to Bangalore, Pune and other cities so that their education was not impaired. It is another piece of sociology that their experiences in ‘India’ travelled back to Kashmir and convinced everyone where their best interests lay. Kerala of which a quarter are Muslims has the highest educational achievements in India. Again at least three of India’s knowledge companies --Wipro, Cipla and Wockhardt-- are led by highly educated Muslims. Not to mention of course, a certain gentleman named A P J Abdul Kalaam.

Confirming this trend is a captivating story in the Hindu on Aug 22,2003. Jyoti Punwani writing on ‘Changing face of Pune Schools’ reports on the work of P A Inamdar who has turned the Anglo Urdu High School in Pune into an assembly line of high achievers. This year’s high school topper is Wajeda Karigar --a child of the slums who had to wake up at 4.30am to get some undisturbed peace for her studies. She is the ‘fifth in an unbroken line of Board toppers from the same institution’, of whom four were girls, three of whom wear burquas. They also stood first among all girls in Maharashtra.

How does Inamdar do it? He urges Muslims to shed their persecution complex. He points out that in India one can overcome all odds as Ambedkar did to vault prejudice, persecution and poverty. He then goes about picking the promising ones and adds them to his Merit List, which then receives special coaching and encouragement. This might seem exlcusivist but remember he is trying to create success stories who will become role models. One of the success girls has persuaded her poor parents to turn down a marriage offer because she wants to graduate in medicine first.

Inamdar has convinced Muslims that this education mainstream is a fair and equal home for all those arrive at it. He has proof that it is one stream that will merge all Indians: “teachers from RSS-run schools have not only come whenever invited, but have also taught his students diligently.”

To read the full story click here.

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