Shafee Ahmad is nostalgic, reminiscing his days at Insan School in Kishanganj. Founded in 1966 by educationist and Padma Shri Syed Hassan, the school attracted students from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “Syed Bhai chose Kishanganj because he wanted to bring the Muslim community out of educational backwardness,” says Ahmad, 50. More than half-a-century later, the institution is not even a shadow of its past. “Apart from fund crunch, there are administrative issues,” says Ahmad.
At 57.04%, illiteracy in Kishanganj still stands far below the national average of 77.7%. Meanwhile, even as it grew into a degree college, Insan School lost accreditation of the Bihar School Examination Board for a few years and its students appeared for board exams under different schools. The degree courses are offered under Maulana Mazharul Haque Arabic and Persian University, Patna.
In 2013, Kishanganj saw another ray of hope when, in the backdrop of the Sachar Committee report, the UPA government approved a study centre of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Kishanganj. The centre was the result of years of protests.
However, like Insan School, the AMU centre too is struggling. Still functioning from a temporary building, it is facing a fund crunch as well as legal issues over 224.02 acres given to it by the Bihar government.
Says AMU-K Director Dr Hassan Imam, “The UPA government approved Rs 136 crore and released Rs 10 crore. We have not received any grant since then.”
In 2018, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) raised a red flag over land allotted to the centre near the Mahananda river.
Even AMU-K’s courses have been curtailed in recent years. While it started out offering MBA and B.Ed courses, the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) halted the B.Ed course in 2018, saying the institute had not taken prerequisite approval.
The AIMIM, which is hoping Kishanganj will be its springboard into Bihar politics, says AMU-K is one of their main poll issues. Qamrul Hoda, who won the Kishanganj Assembly bypoll last year, says, “The Centre and state have deliberately kept the region illiterate, using Seemanchal as a vote bank.”
The five Vidhan Sabha seats under Kishanganj will see a contest between the AIMIM, JD(U) and Mahagathbandhan. While the JD(U) has re-fielded sitting MLAs Mujahid Alam from Kochadhaman and Naushad Alam from Thakurganj, also in the race is AIMIM state president Akhtar-ul Iman.
Mujahid, who looks set to win again, says the Nitish Kumar government is doing its best to revive the AMU-K centre. “Bihar and AMU have filed an appeal with the National Mission for Cleaning Ganga over the NGT order. We have also filed a petition against the NCTE order,” he says, adding that should the site not get clearance, a JD(U) government would sanction an alternative site.
Shafee Ahmad, who saw the Insan dream dwindle and now works as a librarian at the AMU-K Centre, hangs on to hope. “Insaan school was a private initiative,” he notes, “but the Kishanganj centre has the backing of an institution like AMU.”
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