The then principal of Rampur’s Madrasa Aliya or Rajkiya Inter College, Harish Kumar Saxena, remembers clearly how the college was shut down suddenly one day in 2016. “We had gone home on September 9 at 2.30 pm after locking the madrasa. Next day, we were told the minister’s (Azam Khan’s) men had come and changed the lock. We called the District Inspector for Schools (DIOS), Rampur, who told us that the madrasa had been shifted to Raza Inter College in Kunchaferganj area.”
And just like that, an Inter College spread over 22 rooms and a massive hall, with 40 students in Classes 1 to 8 and another 65 pursuing ‘Fazil-e-Hadees’ (equivalent to a Bachelors’ degree), was reduced to two rooms and a verandah at Raza College.
Also gone were 9,000 rare books collected overtime at the 18th-century madrasa. Last week, some of these turned up among the 2,500 books and old manuscripts seized by Rampur police from Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, run by controversial Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan. In 2016, Khan had been the state Cabinet Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Urban Development and Minority Welfare.
The state BJP government is simultaneously probing allegations that land had been forcibly usurped to build the university.
The current principal of Madrasa Aliya, Mohammad Zubaid, is the complainant in the case of the theft of the books, registered on June 15 this year at the Ganj Police Station. Confirms Rampur Superintendent of Police Ajay Pal, “Some books with stamps of Madrasa Aliya have been recovered. These are rare, old books on spirituality, religion and other subjects, which are extremely fragile. Some manuscripts have also been recovered. We will only be able to divulge the details once scholars study the books and manuscripts.”
Zubaid says there were at least 100 pre-Independence manuscripts and a Quran handwritten by scholar Mullah Hasan Firangi Mahal among the books that went missing. “After the madrasa building was taken over, naturally everything in the building was also usurped by Jauhar Trust. This included at least 50 cupboards belonging to the Rampur nawabs containing these books and manuscripts.”
Asked why the madrasa had not lodged a complaint earlier, Zubaid says, “We have been writing to the DIOS since 2016. We can only lodge a complaint after getting the DIOS’s approval. Why the DIOS did not give approval is something everyone knows.”
The then DIOS, Rajendra Pal Singh, incidentally happened to be the principal of Raza Inter College, where the madrasa was shifted. Singh, who retired this March, claims he forwarded the letters to then District Magistrate Amit Kishore. “I was informed that the decision to shift the madrasa had been taken by the state government and not at the district level. We then assigned two rooms to the madrasa at Raza Inter College.”
Rampur Nawab Faiz Ullah Khan established the madrasa in 1774. In 1949, when Rampur merged into the Indian Union, as per point XV of the merger document, it was decided that Madrasa Aliya would continue to be maintained from the revenues of the State. Zubaid says the madrasa received Rs 1 crore grant in 2001, when BJP leader Rajnath was chief minister, and around the same time the process to make it a “university” started.
However, things changed when the Samajwadi Party came to power in 2002, he adds. “The Rs 1 crore grant was stopped and the teachers displaced. Between 2005-07 though, renovation work was started at the madrasa by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government.”
After a five-year term of the BSP government, power passed back to the SP in 2012 and Akhilesh Yadav became CM.
In 2016, came the “raid”. Rampur District Magistrate Aunjaneya Kumar Singh says, “The DIOS stated wrongfully that the PWD was the owner of the madrasa, whereas it was only given to the PWD to renovate and maintain… In October 2016, there was a government order that the madrasa building be given on lease to the Jauhar Trust for 90 years for free. We have submitted a report to the state police SIT now suggesting that the lease be cancelled.”
Lamenting that Madrasa Aliya was once affiliated with the renowned Azhar University in Egypt, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh Board, Zubaid says, “Now, there are just 35 students and one teacher.”
In the wake of seizure of books from the university, Khan released a video claiming these had been donated by people. “Jauhar University has been built with people’s money… Thousands of policemen and PAC personnel came by force… They entered the central library and went away with bundles of books. Then, the SP claimed that the books had been stolen from a madrasa shut 40 years ago.”
SHO Narendra Tyagi says the books are now at the Ganj Police Station. “Some of them are in a bad state.”
DM Aunjaneya Kumar Singh says the books will be donated to Raza Inter College library once the investigation is over, “where everyone can read them”.