Challenging Educational and Social Backwardness

76-78 - Marwar Muslim Educational & Welfare Society JodhpurFrom a long period of immense struggle to being on the forefront of challenging educational and social backwardness in the Marwar region of Rajasthan, the story of the Marwar Muslim Educational & Welfare Society is one of perseverance and inspiration

To most of us, the very mention of Rajasthan signifies the Thar desert and the ‘Land of Kings’. It a state with a regal past of palaces and princely states and builds on a proud history that today boasts of a thriving tourism industry. That is the general impression we carry about Rajasthan. To those uninitiated with the history of the region, the Marwar region, also called Jodhpur, has traditionally meant Rajput warriors and home to Hindu and Jain businessmen engaged in every business vertical who have gradually managed to spread across the length and breadth of the country.

What most of us have failed to look into is that the Marwar region is also home to a good number of Muslims who share their culture and language with Hindus and Jains. The difference here is that they have never been as vocal about their business activities or charity as compared to minorities in other parts of India.

The Marwar region is also home to a good number of Muslims who share their culture and language with Hindus and Jains

The history of Muslims in this region post-independence has been a story of struggle. Education for this community, as a result, has been a cause of concern. Before we delve deeper into the reasons, here is a look at their recent history to put things into better context. In a move to ameliorate the cause of education among weaker sections of the society in general, and Muslims in particular, the year 1929 saw the establishment of the Marwar Muslim Educational & Welfare Society (MMEWS). Ummed Singh, the Maharaja of Jodhpur at that time, was the patron of the society and gifted them a High School on February 18, 1936 and named it ‘Darbar Muslim School’. Some of the alumni of Darbar School even went on to occupy prestigious positions in both the government and private sectors in independent India.

Soon enough though, things took a rather unexpected turn. Despite the school being a gift to the Muslim community from the late Maharaja, the Rajasthan government took over the assets of the school in 1948 and renamed it as Mahatma Gandhi School, by which it is presently known. Not only did the school lose its assets, it also lost its identity that was crucial for providing education to the community. As a result, the enrollment of Muslims declined considerably; leaving only a few matriculates in the community. Things came to such a point that Muslim applicants started being summarily rejected for admissions. Some were obviously frustrated while the others somehow managed to keep their desire of better education alive.

Despite losing the assets of the school, the society continued its struggle to achieve justice for the community

It is here that the real story of MMEWS and its contribution towards the upliftment of the Muslim community in the region begins. Despite losing the assets of the school, the society continued its struggle to achieve justice for the community. The struggle of the society and the optimism of those who had a burning desire to attain good education did bear fruit. In 1978, the state government allotted 5 acres of land to the society and this came as a silver lining for an otherwise sombre three decades.

It was on January 2, 1981, that the foundation stone of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Muslim Senior Secondary School was laid down on the allotted land. Shiv Charan Mathur, the then Chief Minister of Rajasthan inaugurated the school on September 11, 1988. Since then, the society has been tirelessly working towards the cause of minority education. Realising the importance of modern education for Muslim girls, the society established the Firoz Khan Memorial Girls School in the year 1994 within the campus of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Senior Secondary School. The school was inaugurated by the then Vice President Bhairon Singh Sekhawat.

Besides setting up of primary, secondary and senior secondary schools, skill development and coaching institutes, the MMEWS has also ventured into higher education with the establishment of Maulana Azad Institute of Pharmacy and Maulana Azad University in Jodhpur last year. Today, these institutions collectively have a student enrollment of over 5,000 students, including 1,500 girls. A total of 368 qualified teachers and other staff are also employed in different grades. In realisation of the fact that no literacy movement can be sustained without libraries, the society also established one in 2002 stacking about 15,000 books on various subjects.

The society’s efforts have now further diversified from education to other welfare measures as well. Turning its attention to improve the prevalent state of poor health facilities in the region, MMEWS established the Mai Khadijah Hospital which benefits over 18,000 patients every year. Annually, the hospital undertakes 500 operations and 400 delivery cases for treatment.

As a result of this mix of activities and initiatives, the MMEW society is today on the forefront in challenging educational and social backwardness of the community in a major way. Mohammed Atique, General Secretary of the MMEWS, is engaged in philanthropy across the region and is working tirelessly to improve the life of locals by undertaking several works at the grassroot level. And the results are visible.

To improve the prevalent state of poor health facilities in the region, MMEWS established the Mai Khadijah Hospital which benefits over 18,000 patients every year

The society has got a donation of US $ 100,000 from the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, for the construction of an Industrial Training Institute building.  The World Memon Organisation, London, has also  made a donation of 2.20 lakh pounds sterling for charity, construction of building and other welfare works. Four water purification plants have also been installed in desert areas of Barmer to provide drinking water to Madrasa students and villagers.

Improving the lives of poor and needy has a cost to it. Constant source of financing came from Takiya Chand Shah, a Waqf property in the heart of Jodhpur city. The society is making constant efforts for the protection of this land and property from unauthorised and illegal occupation. In the year 1987, the society liberated some of this land and constructed a vast shopping complex, with huge investments. The society is getting approximately Rs 70 lakh per annum as rent from different shops and banks. It is as a result of the non-communal approach of MMEWS, and the religious harmony that it has promoted that people and leaders from all communities have appreciated and contributed to its welfare kitty. The society already has a future plan for providing education to a new generation and meet their demands for a better future. The society has already procured 140 bighas of land at Bujhawar village, about 13 kms from Jodhpur. This procurement of land – courtesy the state government – provides an opportunity to build an institution at par with the best in India.
To sum it all up, the story of MMEWS comes across as one of conviction, perseverance and a general good intent that today overshadows the struggle and neglect it had been witness to. Perhaps, this struggle acts as a lesson for future ages if we are to move ahead towards a truly educated society.

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