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Sunday 13 November 2011

Losing opportunities for reparations in Malegaon

Saturday November 12, 2011 12:18:28 PM, Dr. P.K.Shajahan,

The media representation of Malegaon provides a metaphorical description of all that is bad for a civilised society, whether it is the communal – terror tag, backwardness and religious conservatism. While all genuine needs of a bustling urban space becomes invisible in the media descriptions of Malegaon, all the negative images of the same space is abundant in the public knowledge.
While referring to my recent visit to Malegaon to a prominent political scientist in India, the natural response came in the form of an inquiry “Is the place peaceful these days?”
The invisibility of Malegaon is not only restricted to the media; policy makers, the political class and even the ever boasted sensitive civil society are indifferent to the concerns of Malegaon and its hapless residents.

Malegaon came to the limelight recently due to the Bomb Blasts of 2006 and the repeated shifting blame games and resultant arrests of nine Muslims from Malegaon five years before in connection with the blasts. The Anti Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra and later the National Investigation Agency (NIA) found evidences of a different kind of terrorism than the Islamic one resulted in arrest of members affiliated to groups having sympathetic or symbiotic relationship with Hindu fundamentalist ideologies for Malegaon blasts in 2008 and its connections with other blasts in the country including the blasts in Samjhauta Express, Ajmer Dargah and Mecca Masjid all in 2007 and Malegaon 2006 are being probed.
Though the MCOCA court is currently processing the bail application of the nine Muslim accused, they have already spent five years behind the bars and are still waiting for justice to be done to them. The question is, even if these accused are granted bail or even acquitted, will the damage done to their families in terms of their lost livelihood, respect, dignity and above all the social stigma it has attracted will ever be addressed?

Malegaon is home to almost one lakh fifty thousand powerlooms. These units produce more than one crore meters of cloths a day and employ about five lakh people. Most of the looms in operation in Malegaon are obsolete looms rejected from other parts of the country, repaired and made functional by extremely efficient mechanics of Malegaon.
Even after repeated attempts by social activists and community leaders from Malegaon for policy interventions to upgrade the looms to facilitate the growth of the industry, no concrete steps have been taken so far by the government. The proposal for setting up an MIDC centre for Powerloom units in Malegaon has not become a reality even after several years of hectic pushing by the local community leaders due to the unfavourable changes in the Industrial policy.

At the same time, Malegaon has serious deficit of higher education facilities. Almost 17,000 students pass out of HSC every year from Malegaon. A rough estimate of available seats for under-graduate studies in Malegaon stands at around 4200 in the entire Taluka. A good majority of the remaining children either drop out of their education where several of the male members join the powerloom industry and for most of the girls that is the end of their studies. Parents are not so comfortable in sending their children especially the girls out of their township for higher studies.
Some informal data from Malegaon also suggests that among the total number of students reach the HSC level majority are girls. Boys who drop out at different levels join the powerloom industry.
The recent proposal for setting up a sub-centre of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Maharashtra evoked enthusiastic response from the people of Malegaon. Some of the prominent leaders associated with Noble Education and Welfare Society (NEWS) and Citizens for Development and Peace (CDP) with the strong support from the grass-roots have taken this issue very seriously and worked towards identifying required land for the centre, procuring all the necessary permissions from different departments and getting endorsements for the same by the Department of Higher & Technical Education, the District Collector, Member of Parliament and local MLAs. As the preparations for visit of the AMU team for inspection of the identified land gained momentum, other sites were also proposed for consideration. Khuldabad near Aurangabad was among the prominent sites.
There is no doubt that setting up of a sub-centre of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) either in Malegaon or in Aurangabad will benefit the minority community in substantive ways. However the AMU centre coming up in Malegaon has many long term benefits not only in terms of providing higher education facilities for the people of Malegaon which comprise almost 75 percent Muslims, it gives tremendous opportunities for reparation of neglect of a stigmatised site such as Malegaon for several decades.
Moreover the lack of higher education facilities in Malegaon compared to Aurangabad gives all the more good reason for grabbing such an opportunity.
Apart from the existence of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar University in Aurangabad there are government engineering college, medical college, dental college, women’s engineering college, polytechnic in operation for providing professional education for the people of Aurangabad. Moreover there are several private professional educational institutions within the city of Aurangabad and its outskirts.
In the case of Malegaon, there are no mainstream professional educational institutions in the taluka. One private engineering college and a private medical college are located in Chandvad approximately 35 kms from Malegaon. Considering the cultural and religious specificities of the locality, setting up an AMU centre in Malegaon would have been a big step forward for boosting development and social transformation of this city and its people.
As the news of AMU expert team’s communiqué regarding the recommendation of Khuldabad site near Aurangabad spread, the people of Malegaon are unable to understand what could be the reason for not choosing Malegaon for the same. One is wondering whether we are losing a golden opportunity for reparation which may result in strengthening of a sense of social and political alienation and denial of development opportunities for the people of Malegaon.
For them, the concerns about the backwardness of Muslim communities and localities raised by Sachar Committee Report remain a rhetoric as the situation of their backwardness are never being addressed in concrete terms despite there are several opportunities came the way.

Dr. P.K.Shajahan is Assistant Professor with Centre for Community Organisation and Development Practice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
He can be contacted at

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