Less than 24 hours after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee listed her government’s achievements and development work done for the minority community during the Martyrs’ Day rally, nearly a thousand teachers from the state’s 234 madrasas began an indefinite hunger strike Wednesday demanding “government aid and proper salaries”.
Under the banner ‘Unaided Madrasah Bachao Committee’, the teachers converged at the Madrasah Board compound on Haji Md Mohsin Square in central Kolkata, raising their demands.
“The Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) had promised to give recognition to 10,000 madrasas but so far only 234 have been recognised, and that too under the ‘unaided’ status. We demand that the state government accord recognition to all the madrasas, give its teachers proper pay and make arrangements for mid-day meals, books and uniforms for the students,” said Sheikh Sahabuddin, the Committee’s joint secretary.
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He added that last year they had called off their demonstration after receiving assurance from senior leaders of the ruling party. “TMC leaders Firhad Hakim and Idris Ali had assured us (last year) that they would come up with a solution within a week. A year has passed and nothing has happened. This time, we will not settle for anyone other than the Chief Minister herself. She must come, assure us and declare before the media (that the demands will be met) for the thousands of teachers who are living in extreme conditions,” Sahabuddin said.
Other madrasa authorities said that Mamata had been “making wild claims” instead of paying the teachers.
“Crores have been spent on utsavs and on film stars who already earn a lot. TMC’s 100th administrative meeting (earlier this month) had cost the State over Rs 1 crore but the CM doesn’t want to pay the teachers,” said Naushad Ali Mullick, secretary, Roshan Ali Memorial Madrasah at Dhaniakhali in Hooghly.
Fazl Ali Sardar, a teacher, said that the minorities have always been treated as “vote banks and nothing else”.
“It happened during the CPM rule, it is happening now and it will continue in the future as well. We are always assured of a lot of things before the elections but nothing materialises (after the parties come to power). If the CM doesn’t keep her promises, then she should remember that we can reply through our votes,” he said.
Professor Fuzl-e-Rabbi, president, Madrasah Board made it clear that the teachers have only been allowed to hold their hunger strike at the Board’s premises only because “they would not be allowed anywhere near Nabanna”. “Their demand is not to me. They are only holding their demonstration here.”
While the state’s Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said that the “madrasa education doesn’t come under my jurisdiction” and denied having any knowledge of the hunger strike, a senior official with the minority department was more direct in his assessment.