The atmosphere created by over-zealous TV anchors and IT Cell-dominated social media users following Nizamuddin episode has forced madrasa students to go underground…
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
LOCKDOWN, coupled with “Tablighi-phobia”, has proved to be a double-edged sword for the madrasa graduates, known in the society as “Hafiz Saheb” or “Qari Saheb”. The atmosphere created by over-zealous TV anchors and IT Cell-dominated social media users following Nizamuddin episode has forced them to go underground. I have interviewed nearly a dozen of them in Delhi NCR’s Greater Noida city. They are the real sufferers with no one to shed tears for them.
A Hafiz Saheb told me that he faced a hostile crowd in a neighbourhood market where he has been frequenting for the past so many years. He was specifically told by people not to be seen in the area lest he spreads Coronavirus. The Hafiz Saheb lives in the compound of a mosque situated on the main road that links Greater Noida with Bulandshahr.
Since there is no population in the immediate vicinity of this particular mosque, the management committee of the mosque has provided accommodation to him and two others for security of the mosque. After the warning, Hafiz Saheb and his companions, also madrasa graduates, have not stepped out of the compound. Now they are dependent on the night guard of the mosque, a resident of a neighbouring village, for their daily requirements.
Quran tuition is the main source of livelihood for madrasa graduates. Some lucky ones get the job of imam (prayer leader) in a mosque or mudarris (teacher) in a madrasa. Those smart enough who can manage donations venture out to launch their own madrasa. But main occupation for majority of them is Quran tuition. Muslim parents generally consider it obligatory to ensure that their children know how to read Quran. (Only read, because in majority of cases even their tutors, the madrasa graduates, don’t know the Arabic language.)
Another Hafiz Saheb who lives in a neighbourhood dominated by majority Hindu community was not challenged by anyone. But, according to him, just five blocks away from his building people started staring at him with suspicion. He had gone out to buy milk for his young child. But he realised it was not advisable to go further. He returned. Since then he has restricted himself to his flat. Now he calls his non-Hafiz friends to fetch him daily requirement.
These two incidents were enough to send others into hiding. Almost all of the Hafiz and Qari Sahebs I spoke to on the phone said they are avoiding public places. Majority of them said they have not gone out ever since Tablighi Jamaat was linked with COVID-19 epidemic in the last week of March.
Hafiz Sahebs are suffering financially as well. Parents of their students have generally forgotten to pay them salaries. Schools, despite government warnings, are demanding and extracting tuition fees. Tutors of English and science subjects are offering their services online. Therefore, parents are obliged to pay them. Quran tutors are neither skilled enough to go online nor their services are considered that essential. Hence, no work, no payment.