ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fleeting Impressions

A Girls’College in Lucknow

A visit to the Karamat Husain Girls' College proved an eye-opener. Battling stiff opposition in the early 20th century, its founder maintained his inherent belief that women's education was a precondition for advancement of the country and community. Even today, a similar spirit pervades the hearts and minds of its teaching staff.

Muslims were invisible in Kurukshetra, a small town in Haryana. I have no memory of meeting a Muslim student or a teacher at the university campus. Occasionally, one would hear people talk about the partition and the havoc it caused in the region. Predictably, the ‘Muslim fanatics’ would be held responsible for the murders, rapes and abductions that took place in 1947-48. Sometimes, I heard vague references to Muslims being backward and conservative, and their women being subservient to the ‘shariat’ laws. Later in life, I realised why such images were conjured up in popular imagination, and how Islam and the Muslim community were reified.

My recent visit to Lucknow, once the capital of the nawabs of Awadh, was an eye-opener. For one, it brought about a significant change in my understanding of the role and status of Muslim women. Yes, I saw scores of ‘burqa’-clad women in and around sheesh mahal, a predominantly shia locality, but I also discerned an air of confidence in their movement, gestures and public conduct. Yes, I heard stories of Muslim girls either not being sent to school by their parents or the high drop- out rate. Yet my exchanges with people indicated clear signs of a perceptible change in the attitude towards the education of their girls. You may still hear a few hotheaded ‘mullahs’ fulminating against the ‘irreligious’ teaching imparted in schools outside the madrasa system, but the overall consensus amongst the community is to educate their girls in the traditional as well as the modern systems of education.

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