Monday, October 4, 2010

No Tehelka In Madrasah

TEHELKA is a trusted name in Indian journalism. During the past years, it earned a name by exposing corruption in various departments of Indian government. The credit of unveiling evil faces of many criminals also goes to them.

The weekly magazine recently published a story about child labour. This time however, its credibility is in doubt. The article reads “The stark and appalling story of child labour is not new. In November 2009, TEHELKA had published a wide-ranging story on child trafficking and labour (Pimped, Abandoned, Sold). But like in a report we published a month ago, The Half Life of a Coal Child — where we described the medieval horror of children working in the rat mines of Meghalaya — this story unearths a new and dark narrative of child labour that should serve as a timely wake-up call for the community.”

The above is a paragraph of the long Cover Story “Lost Children of the Prophet” published in September 11, 2010 issue of TEHELKA. It takes into account the child trafficking allegedly practiced in some of the Islamic academic institutions or madaris.

Nevertheless, in the ensuing paragraphs, to make the story more impressive it lays more emphasis over depicting a negative image of the madaris rather than talking about child trafficking.

It presumes that there is lack of accountability and transparency in the madaris and at the same time prescribes the establishment of Central Madrasah Board as the cure; a central government proposal rejected unanimously by the elders of the Muslim community. The report goes on to describe that the children/students work for money and it leaves the readers wondering whether the earnings are used by the maulvis. Something that Tehelka leaves unanswered.

According to the report, children from Bihar are taken to some Delhi madaris and then they are made to work in various factories allegedly by teachers. The time students learn religious education, around two hours per day, in those madaris is far shorter than around 8-12 hours they spend working in the nearby factories.

The report that alleges child trafficking/child labour is practiced in the academic institutions identifies the madaris by name and their localities in Delhi. But, when it comes to mention the factories where the children/students work it surprisingly says, “TEHELKA has not authenticated this claim independently. Though TEHELKA could not independently corroborate whether these (claim by an 11-year-student Mohammad Kallan of working from 9am to 9pm in a garment factory in Shakurpur village) were fakes or genuine. To reiterate, TEHELKA could not independently corroborate the authenticity of this claim.”

If TEHELKA were to expose child labour-the tag under which the Cover Story is written-why did it not try genuinely to have access to the factories where those children work. The reason presented by the magazine that “Understandably, the factory owners where the boys work are far less forthcoming than the maulvis.

Despite several guises, the TEHELKA reporter could not gain entry into the factory — turned away each time by hostile guards.” is a joke. Was this the true reason? Then how on the earth did the reporters of this very magazine TEHELKA penetrate into high security Indian government establishments to let people know the corruption in it? How they have made Narendra Modi and his allies confess on record the irregularities they committed during the infamous 2002 Gujarat riots that resulted into genocide of Muslim community in the state?

If it could not access one Britannia biscuit factory, bindi sweatshops, units of zari or Jootaland in Nangloi area how was it was possible for it to do sting operations of big politicians or officers.

Seemingly the story deals with child labour, but from inside it is a complete defamation of madaris, the largest NGOs providing free education to poor children despite the fact that they lack monetary resources.

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