KOLKATA: Kazi Masum Akhtar, the headmaster of Talpukur Aara High Madrasa in the heart of the city, has been banned from its precincts, after being viciously assaulted by maulanas and their henchmen, for training students to sing the national anthem for the Republic Day in the state where Asia’s first Nobel laureate and West Bengal icon Rabindranath Tagore wrote the song.
The Talpukur Aara High Madrasa is a government-recognised school. Many of the radical Muslim clerics who attacked Akhtar are rooting for the ISIS, say sources. So far, Akhtar has appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the governor and the chairman of state minorities’ commission six times, but to no avail. He records his attendance at a state government education department office to draw his salary.
The maulvis have dubbed the national anthem “sacrilege” and a “Hindutva song” and issued a fatwa against Akhtar. He was also beaten up with iron rods in March, resulting in a severe head injury that left him for months in hospital. His skull was split. Since then Akhtar has not been able to set foot in the area—not just the madrasa—though he was hired through a state government interview. A fatwa has been issued against him, preventing him from entering the school unless he wore the traditional Muslim attire of kurta, short pyjamas and grew a beard, the length of which would be decided by the madrasa’s maulanas.
The clean-shaven Akhtar, who is comfortable wearing shirts and trousers, is bemused by the fatwa. The maulvis have asked him to send them photos each week, to examine the progress of his beard’s growth. They have said singing the “Hindu” national anthem and hoisting the Tri-colour in an Islamic teaching institution are anti-Islamic.
Akhtar invited the fury of maulvis for modernising the syllabus in his classroom. “Our madrasa is a modern one and is like any other good school, with the only exception that Arabic is an optional subject,” he said.
Another act of Akhtar that angered the maulvis was his support for the education of Muslim girls. He persuaded parents of his girl students to let their daughters continue their studies and publicly denounce child marriage. Before being assaulted, he had started counselling poor Muslim parents not to marry off their minor daughters to old Muslim men. The enraged Muslim clerics described him as a “kafir” for preaching “Hindutva”.
The Kolkata Police Commissioner has written to the chairman of the Minorities Commission, stating that he was not in a position to provide security to Akhtar as “his presence in the area might lead to communal tension because of his comments in some newspapers”.