Madrassas are the cornerpiece of Muslim community life. In a disturbing twist, some of them are being used as transit shelters for child trafficking. Or worse, doubling up as sweatshops themselves. NEHA DIXIT reports
|PHOTO: VIJAY PANDEY
IN SHAKURPUR Basti, a teeming Muslim-dominated, workingclass neighbourhood in North Delhi, there is a four-storey building with a mosque on the ground floor. This is the Darul Ujloom Nizamia Ghausul Uloom Madrassa. On the face of it, there is nothing to set this madrassa apart from an estimated 35,000 madrassas in the country. But unknown to the community, the Darul Ujloom madrassa is subverting its foundational pact with both Allah and his followers.
In many ways, madrassas are a cornerpiece in Islamic community life. They are seminaries where children go for religious education, and in poor neighbourhoods, for non-formal schooling. Most madrassas in India are affiliated either to the Deobandi, Barelvi or Ahl-i-Hadith sects and are funded by zakat — the com- passionate Islamic practice of people donating 2.5 percent of their income to support hospitals, charities or Islamic schools. Zakat donated to madrassas is meant to pay for maulvis’ salaries and free meals, clothing, books and lodging for children.
Sign this charter from CRY – Child Rights and You. It asks you to pledge on the following bare minimum acts you can do for your own bid to help girl child:
I will take action myself
- I will not accept or perpetuate any reasoning based on myths or cultural norms and rituals that see a girl child as a liability to the family, and in a way become cause for social evils and crimes such as foeticide.
- I will not employ any girl or boy of less than 18 years as domestic help, or in any occupation that deprives them of the right to education, play & social life.
- I will ensure that all girls in my family & those I know have equal access to quality education and development opportunities to be economically independent and are able to participate in all the decisions that are significant to their lives.
- Acknowledging that all kinds of physical, sexual & emotional abuse on the girl child are perpetrated by close relatives, friends and acquaintances of the child, I will be vigilant towards realizing the right to protection of all children and promise to strongly voice issues that are silenced or ignored by not considering them a taboo.
- I will not participate in any marriage ceremonies or rituals in which a girl under the age of 18 years or a boy under the age of 21 years is getting married.
- I will respect and realize every girl child’s right to food & nutrition.
A UNICEF estimate says about 2.50 lakhs children have been recruited as soldiers in various capacities worldwide. In India no such studies have been done to document the life of these child soldiers. The main reasons the children take to guns being extreme poverty and they see rebels leading well-off lives. To them joining the rebels seems like an opportunity to get out of their misery. When the child soldier learns the tricks of the trade and starts getting money, the parents also enjoy a better life style. While the government doesn’t give enough support and compensation for victims, rebel groups step in to act as guardians.
Whats worse is that in most countries, including India, there is no government mandate on what should be done of these children, once they are found during raids or encounters. Can their childhood be returned? NO!
In over twenty countries around the world, children are direct participants in war. Denied a childhood and often subjected to horrific violence, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 children are serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in current armed conflicts. These young combatants participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare. They wield AK-47s and M-16s on the front lines of combat, serve as human mine detectors, participate in suicide missions, carry supplies, and act as spies, messengers or lookouts.