Hatebuster: Hindus studying in madrassas does not violate Article 28(3) of the Constitution Munshi Premchand, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and even Dr Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President, studied in madrassas

04, Feb 2023 | CJP Team

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has issued a follow up letter on its earlier letter pushing for inquiries into madrassas to check how many non-Muslim students were admitted in madrassas.

In December last year, the NCPCR chairperson, Priyank Kanoongo had written to Chief Secretaries of states asking them to ‘conduct an inquiry’ into madrassas funded or aided by the government to specifically find out whether they were admitting non-Muslim students. He had also recommended that all such non-Muslim children should be removed from madrassas and admitted to schools post such inquiry (if they are found to be receiving education in madrassas).

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“On perusal of various complaints received by the Commission from different sources, it is noted that children belonging to Non-Muslim community are attending Government funded/Recognised Madrasas,” said the NCPCR letter.

In an interview with IANS, Kanoongo also claimed that “around 1.1 crore children are there in some madrasas where it is taught that the Sun revolves around the Earth”. When asked about the nature of complaints received by NCPCR, he gave a vague response that “children are facing exploitation of sorts in the unauthorised madrasas”. He also said that providing school education to over 1 crore students studying in unauthorised Madrasas across the country is one of the topmost priorities for the commission. Not child abuse, violence against children including trafficking etc. Nor malnutrition, hunger or denial of education altogether!

Kanoonge has also invoked article 28(3) of the Constitution and states that inclusion of non-Muslim children in Madrassas violates the same. Article 28(3) read thus,

(3) No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto

The letter may be read here:


Opposition to the recommendations

The UP Madrassa Education Board rejected these recommendations and a notice from NCPCR followed; which stated that the Madrassa board’s stand “violates the constitutional rights of the children and it disrespects the commission’s mandate”.

Replying to the child rights panel’s letter, the Board’s Chairman Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, said, “Non-Muslims are studying in madrasas and non-Hindu children are studying in Sanskrit schools. Children of every religion are also studying in missionary schools. Even though I myself studied at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), NCPCR should reconsider their letter,” as reported by Hindustan Times.

He further said, ““If NCPCR head has any evidence of forced religious conversion of any student or forceful admission of non-Muslim students in madrassa, then he must share input and lodge FIR.” He also stated that the madrassas in UP were providing modern education to children under NCERT syllabus.

The All India Teachers Association Madaris Arabiya has written to the President of India as well as the Prime Minister stating that the NCPCR letter stands to violate Right to Education and goes against the spirit of Indian Constitution. The General secretary, Wahidullah Khan Sayeedi, said that issuance of such letters and directions for educational institutions “on the basis of mere complaints and imaginations” and “without any concrete proof or evidence” only harms their image, reported The Wire. Like Javed, even Sayeedi insisted that all students are admitted in madrassas only after sue consent form the guardians/parents of the children thus admitted.

While Kanoongo has invoked Article 28(3), it is pertinent to note this facet of “consent”. As quoted above, the said article, has exception to “consent” of the person admitted to such educational institution (in this case, madrassa) or in case of a minor, of the guardian. Hence, notwithstanding what the rest of the article states, as long as there is consent of the guardian in case of minors, they can receive education in madrassas, irrespective of their religious background.

Do only Muslims study in Madrassas?

Even looked at historically, the answer to this question would a categoric no.

Munshi Premchand, India’s beloved writer in Hindi language studied in a Madrassa in Varanasi, which taught hundreds other non-Muslim students like him. Theatre director Mujeeb Khan, who has dramatized several of Premchand’s short stories, while speaking to Times of Indiasaid, “not in a single short story by Premchand will you find him using the word ‘school’. He always called an educational institute a Madarsa.”

When, in 2019, Banaras Hindu University students protested the appointment of a Muslim teacher to teach Sanskrit, Premchand’s grandson, Pravir Rai had tweeted, “My grandfather Munshi Premchand, a Kayastha Hindu, learnt Urdu from Maulvi saheb. He became the greatest Urdu-Hindi writer of all time. What has language got to do with religion?”

In the absence of primary education in rural India, social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Rai and independent India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad studied in madrassas.

An article in Siasat, reads, “Amidst the poverty that the parents face in the upbringing of their children and the absence of good quality education as well as religious discrimination in the public school system, the Madrasa offers a way out wherein students get free education and, in most cases, free boarding. The Madrasa has shielded the students from becoming vagabonds and instilled in most students a sense of ethics and morality, traits that are rapidly dying and in severe shortage.”

Bihar-a special case

Why only to resort to history and its few examples, when even in today’s day and age, non-Muslims studying in madrassas is not an anomaly. In a 2009 article published in The Telegraph, figures quoted revealed that 177 Hindu students cleared the wastania (Class VIII) examination, while another 110 Hindu students passed the fauquania (Class X) and moulvi (Class XII) examinations in 38 districts of Bihar as reported by Bihar State Madrasa Education Board (BSMEB).

Madrassas in Bihar also teach mathematics, physics, english, biology, besides the Islamic religious scriptures. Since madrassa education is considered reasonable qualification for government jobs in the state, they attract Hindu students in rural areas as well. A secretary of one of the Madrassas told TheTelegraph that offering is not mandatory for Hindu students. Bihar has 25% Muslim population and Urdu is the second official language and since the State is known to be on the lookout for Urdu language teachers, learning at a Madrassa becomes even beneficial for earning a livelihood for the Hindu children in rural areas.

Even in West Bengal, nearly 15 per cent of madrassa students are non-Muslims, says the article.Several madarsas also have a number of Hindu teachers and clerks on the staff. At least in two madrassas in Burdwan district, Hindu students outnumber their Muslim counterparts.


According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in past decades Madarsas  grew of the occasional lectures delivered in the mosques. Madrasas were theological seminary and law schools with a curriculum centered on the Quran and Hadiths. In fact, the word Madarsa is a Persian word which is older than (pre-dates) the advent of Islam.

In India the first Madarsa was established in 1192 AD in Ajmer. Even today, one can see remnants of the Madarsa adjoining Firoz Shah Tughlaq Tomb in Delhi, wrote Rising Kashmir. ‘Madarsa’ is an Arabic word for any type of educational institution, either religious or secular. However, over time, it has come to be associated with a place/institution that imparts Islamic religious education.

In India, Madarsas began as spiritual workshops, or khanqas, which subsequently evolved into maktabs, where students learned Quran recitation and Islamic customs. Muslim rulers of India established Maktabs or Madarsas alongside mosques to teach both religion and science from the 13th to the 19th centuries.[1]

Urgent need, reforms within madrassas

As is evident from Ziya Us Salam and Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz’s book ‘Madrasas in the Age of Islamophobia’, what madrassas in India currently urgently need are reforms in their syllabus and outlook so that they impart a worldview that is modern, forward looking and inclusive. Some madrassas have, albeit slowly begun including the NCERT syllabus in their teachings, apart from the usual religious scripture learnings.

The Waqf Board in Uttarakhand has already announced last year that they will introduce NCERT syllabus in madrassas in the state What madrassas do not require at the moment is threats from state governments like in Assam and needless interventions from NCPCR like statutory bodies going into divisive narratives (that has never been a part of  the discourse hitherto).

Since madrassas run on zakat or donations, the teachers receive paltry salaries and including modern education would require more funds. As per Sachar Committee report, only children from weak economic backgrounds go to madrassas in the interest of getting meals and even boarding. Reputed madrasas like Darul Uloom, Deoband, Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow etc. are autonomous institutions and scholars from these madrassas find place in top universities of the country as students and even teachers.

To target such community institutions, that, with whatever limitations do function as spaces for children to partake both socialisation and education, and moreover to segregate and divide them with an exclusivist outlook does poor credit to a statutory body created to protect the rights and welfare of all children. While such institutions do need an overhaul and reform of their syllabus and outlook, to target madrassas alone in this fashion without encouraging change, reflects the vulnerability of that marginalised communities today face.

Image Courtesy: sanatanprabhat.org




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