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Unhashing Shabnam Hashmi

June 7, 2012

A few months ago the union government inducted activists Shabnam Hashmi and Teesta Setalvad into Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). What qualifications these activist have to contribute constructively to education is best known to those who appointed them. In public records it is unclear what Hashmi has studied, though it appears that she claims to be a Stephanian and also claims to having studied in the USSR for 6-years on a scholarship. What she studied is again not explicitly mentioned in the public domain. Her work has been that of a ‘social and political activist’ – I wonder if there aren’t more qualified educationists in our country to advise the government! 

What she could contribute to education was demonstrated in yesterday’s CABE meeting. Hashmi attacked the Gujarat for discrimnating against minorities. Being a state with a 15% tribal population, a ~80% literacy rate could at worst be considered reasonable and at best commendable. Since Hashmi has perhaps been recruited to voice the concerns of minorities she could have highlighted states like J&K and Bihar whose literacy rates are around below 65% (or below) and the ‘minority population’ is far greater than what it is in Gujarat.

Yet Hashmi chose Gujarat. Let us look at her allegations / statements:

Allegation: She alleged that in more than 2000 schools minorities are not being admitted. Gujarat has over 32,000 primary schools and her statement raises several questions:
– How did Hashmi arrive at the number that she did? (2,000 out of 32,000)? 
– Does she imply that the state government is selectively advising schools against enrolling minorities? What about the other 30,000 schools; are they happily inducting minority students?
– Most importanly – Where is the empirical evidence or data? These days, this sort of data is mostly a click away or at worst an RTI away. Yet Hashmi responded that the she can ‘produce‘ the data later, but her “extensive research” shows that there is discrimination in Gujarat. Now that produces more questions.
– Hashmi was informed well in advance about the CABE meet – they are not organised suddenly be anybody on a whim. If she had indeed conducted “extensive research”, why didn’t she come armed with data and reports and place on record the evidence backing her allegations.
– ‘Data can be given later?’ If she has indeed studied so vastly why didnt she at least give broad directions? For Eg: discrimination is seen in riot affected areas or Modi’s constituency etc?’ The fact that she evaded the question of evidence all together leaves the door open to massaging / fabricating data to suit her requirements.
– She claimed that she will produce “names of schools with photos”. How would photos of schools qualify for evidence of discrimination? Are schools in Gujarat located in hiding which nobody is aware of so that discrimination can be secretely practiced? Real evidence should be answering these questions: “which school discriminates? – names of school; who discriminated against whom? headmaster / student / parent details; when was this discrimination done – year / month of discrimination? This can be backed with broader data – literacy rate amongst muslims pre-2002 v/s now, enrollment levels of minorities in those 2000 schools in different classes etc. Percentage of muslims The “photos” as evidence indicates the sensationalist attitude of the person in question. The attempt is probably to project unrelated / inconsequential visuals as ‘evidence’ and then go the biased media to get some easy publicity. Even Kapil Sibal said a case could not be made till evidence was presented.

Hashmi also tried to attack Haryana for education facilities in the minority dominated Mewat region. The Congress Harayana Education Minister debunked her allegations immediately. Instead of making wild allegations, Hashmi could do well to convince her Jesuit missionary friends who are ‘secular’ members of her organisation ANHAD, to open schools in muslim dominated districts. For the Jesuits have vast experience in running schools in Dalit and Tribal dominated regions. Muslims are indeed as backward as Dalits – why dont the Jesuits want to serve Muslims in the name of Jesus Christ? Afterall they are secular enough to work together in ANHAD – why not work together to actually do some good. 



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