Madarsas being used to provide shelter to ultras
24 January 2002
Kolkata: Following Tuesday's attack outside the American Center in Kolkata, in which unidentified motorcycle-borne gunmen shot dead four policemen and injured nearly 20 people, investigations into the role of madarsas have been stepped up. While the five people arrested in connection with the attack were remanded in judicial custody on Thursday, 57 people have been questioned till now, including three madarsa teachers. Police picked up Maulana Abdul Gafar Gazi, Kurban Ali and Mozammel Haque for questioning from the Bithari Jamia Islamia Senior Madarsa at Swarupnagar, two km from the Bangladesh border in the North 24 Parganas district. A motorbike was also seized from Ali's residence. 'We questioned some madarsa teachers,' Special Superintendent of Police Shibaji Ghosh admitted. The West Bengal Government has identified unauthorised madarsas across the State and is to act against at least 125 of them. Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said that illegal Muslim seminaries were being used to provide sanctuary to terrorists at the behest of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Intelligence agencies have long claimed that subversive groups setting up bases in the border districts were being sheltered in Muslim places of worship to avoid the public eye. Mr Bhattacharya said some unauthorised seminaries were receiving huge donations from overseas organisations. The Chief Minister said: 'These madarsas should be affiliated to the State Madarsa Board. They should join the mainstream. But some people are deliberately refusing to get affiliated to the Madarsa Board and are teaching only Arabic and Theology. Some anti-national elements are operating from these madarsas. This must be stopped.' Last year, West Bengal revived a 15-year-old law requiring Government permission before constructing new places of worship. It made it mandatory for any person or group wanting to build a shrine to take the district administration's permission and get police clearance as well. The State's ruling Leftists took the decision because of Intelligence reports, a series of arrests of suspected Pakistani spies and seizures of arms and explosives. The Kolkata attack has added to the Government's worries. The Government was surprised to find that 1,050 mosques of all sizes had come up in the districts bordering Bangladesh in the last few years. The increase in the number of mosques in these areas was found to be inconsistent with that in urban areas like Kolkata. While the State Capital, a city of 14 million, had only 131 seminaries and 67 mosques, the small border town of Krishnanagar in Nadia district had 404 seminaries and 368 mosques, according to a Border Security Force (BSF) study. Meanwhile, an influential Muslim organisation has condemned investigations into several unauthorised seminaries following the terrorist attack here and warned against their closure. The Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind said the authorities had to first give sufficient evidence of involvement of these seminaries, or madarsas, in 'anti-national activities or else we will not allow their closure.' It alleged that the action against the madarsas was part of a conspiracy against the minorities.