Dharmpal Singh, UP Cabinet minister: ‘We will make madrasa students ideal citizens, engineers, doctors… not make them stone-pelters’

A five-term MLA from Aonla in Bareilly district, Dharampal Singh, 64, has been a minister in the governments of Chief Minister Kalyan Singh (BJP) and Mayawati (when she headed a BSP-BJP government), and served as general secretary and vice-president in the BJP. In the previous Yogi Adityanath government, Singh was inducted as Irrigation Minister, but dropped after two years in a Cabinet reshuffle. Apart from Minority Welfare, Muslim Waqf and Haj, Singh holds the portfolios of Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development, Political Pension and Civil Defence. He speaks to The Indian Express on the survey of madrasas being conducted by the UP government and the menace of stray cattle. Excerpts:

What is behind the state government’s decision to conduct a survey of madrasas?

The survey is being conducted so that students studying there get a better education. With degrees of maulvi or kamil in madrasas, no student can become IAS, IPS, doctor or engineer, until they study other subjects too. And while we are doing this survey now, in 1981-82, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had suggested a survey of madrasas. But nobody got it done.

In a recent incident in Lucknow, a maulvi tied up a madrasa student with a chain… At several places, you may have seen, namaz padhne ke baad pathhar maarne ka kaam madrase ke bachchey kar rahe hain. Allahabad (Prayagraj) mein ghatna hui, Kanpur mein hui, Moradabad mein hui, toh isme pathhar marne wale madrase ke bachchey they (after offering namaz, students at some madrasas have been coming out and pelting stones… This happened in Allahabad, Kanpur, Moradabad, where those pelting stones were madrasa students). We will make these madrasa students ideal citizens, engineers and doctors. We will not make them pathharbaaj (stone-pelters).

For that purpose, the survey is being done, so that good quality education can be provided to them. Secondly, the survey is being done to check the source of their funding, the basis of donations to them, whether these madrasas are registered or not, if the maulvis teaching are eligible or not, if students have adequate facilities. Committees comprising district minority welfare officers, Basic Shiksha Adhikari and SDMs have been formed to conduct the surveys in each district.

Only those people are opposing the survey who are themselves convent educated and never studied in madrasas, who want that poor Muslim children do not get good education. Children of only poor Muslim families study in madrasas. If such students get good education, they (the protesters against the survey) will lose the Muslim vote. Fearing the loss of the Muslim vote, they are opposing the survey. Ordinary poor Muslims are not opposing it.

The government has no objection to students getting Deeni education in Arabic, Urdu and Farsi (Persian), and that will continue. Along with that, we will also teach students Hindi, Mathematics, English, Science, Social Studies, like at other schools, will provide coaching to them and run centres for them so that they can prepare for IAS/IPS. They (those opposing the survey) think that if students do better and rise, they will not pelt stones at their bidding.

Why a survey now?

The need was felt because Prime Minister Narendra Modi once said that he would like to see Quran-carrying Muslim youths in madrasas also use modern technology like laptops.

The fear among some is that this is another move targeting Muslims by the BJP government.

They should wait for the survey to be completed. Why allege all this now? The survey has just begun. Our goal is that after the survey, these madrasas have access to better education, have job-oriented and skill development programmes, and their needs are fulfilled.

Were there any specific inputs regarding madrasas which led to this survey?

There were instances of maulvis harassing children… you also saw that. Yeh to sarvjanik hai ki madarse ke bachchon se pathhatbaji karai ja rahi hai (This is public knowledge that children at these madrasas are used for stone-pelting).

Among those who have criticised the survey are the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The SP, BSP and Congress share a common Muslim vote bank, and fear loss of the Muslim vote. The BJP does not see them as a vote bank, it considers Muslims as citizens of the country and wants to provide them public facilities – the facilities the Hindus get, the Muslims too should get the same. They (the SP, BSP and Congress) fear that Muslims will become voters of the BJP and hence they are opposing (the survey).

The Opposition has questioned why similar surveys are not being done of Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, run by the RSS?

Shishu Mandirs follow the rules of secondary education and teach the syllabus set by the government. They do not oppose the rules. Anyone can enter a Shishu Mandir, but not a madrasa. Muslim students too study at Shishu Mandirs. In madrasas, we will introduce the NCERT course.

What action is planned in case a madrasa is found to be receiving suspicious funding or fails to meet standards?

That will be decided after receiving the survey report. At present the focus is only on the survey. The next strategy will be decided later.

During the Assembly elections, the BJP had promised to tackle the stray cattle menace if returned to power. PM Modi had himself given an assurance on this. But the stray cattle are still on the road.

The cows have not come from outside but are local. Cattle-rearers leave them after they have stopped giving milk. This practice should be stopped. It will stop automatically when both the cow dung and cow milk are procured by companies… The farmers will then take care of elderly cows as well. Living with a cow means a healthy life.

Stray cattle was a big issue for the Opposition in the 2022 elections. It will not exist in 2024 (the Lok Sabha polls). We will set up gaushalas on large areas and the cows will be kept there. We have developed bhusa banks (fodder banks), we are developing self-reliant gaushalas. Over 3,000 cows will be kept at each such gaushala.

The lumpy virus disease has affected cattle in UP too. What is the government doing to control it?

The lumpy virus has come from other states. Now a lockdown has been imposed on cattle, their fairs and sale have been stopped. The problem is in around 25 districts of western UP, and we are trying to restrict it there. A 10-km wide belt has been created, the disease will be stopped from crossing this, and the cattle in eastern UP will be protected. Around 2,542 cattle heads have been infected so far, of whom 245 have died. The recovery rate is 6.5% and the death rate 1%. The situation is under control.

As the Minority Welfare Minister, what do you think the BJP can do to attract Muslims towards the party?

My two portfolios (Animal Husbandry and Minority Welfare) are opposites of each other. We have to both protect cows and take Muslims towards unnayan (progress)… Good Muslims are approaching us and they want to join the party. That is because in the government of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath, all the facilities that Hindus are getting, poor Muslims too are getting – free medical treatment up to Rs 5 lakh, free ration, house, etc. Hence Muslims want to be part of the mainstream and get associated with the BJP.

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