Kolkata: Most iftar parties during Ramadan are organized to promote inter-faith culture in society, but this one was dedicated to the betterment of education.
The Dawat-e-Iftar, organized by the Bengal Institute of Multicultural Studies and Maulana Hasrat Mohani Foundation on Sunday, April 16, was attended not only by professors, lecturers, and students from Jadavpur University, Presidency University, Aliah University, and St. Xavier’s University, but also by participants from Queen Mary University in London. Scientists, advocates, retired government officials, journalists, social and educational activists, and crusaders from the city were also present at the iftar.
Senior journalist Abdul Aziz started the conversation before breaking the fast, emphasizing the importance of the teachings of the Quran, which were revealed during Ramadan. “We are not following the teachings of the Quran in our daily lives. If we had been following them, we would not be facing so many problems.”
After iftar, while relishing Daleem, the conversation resumed.
Rabiul Islam, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at St. Xavier’s College, moderated the talk.
Abdul Matin, Assistant Professor at Jadavpur University, talked about the deteriorating state of education, especially among the youth of rural Bengal. “There is an immediate need to establish schools and other educational institutions in rural areas. Otherwise, there will be no good future for our youth.”
Activist Manzar Jameel, who is also a founding member of Milli Al Ameen College For Girls and a trustee of KECT Academy, which provides free education for the underprivileged, echoed Matin’s views and added, “Places like Kakinada used to be hubs of educational activities, and their students used to study in all the major colleges and universities of Kolkata, but now they are involved in anti-social activities.”
However, a young student, Mansharul Haque, who is doing his Master’s degree in Physics at Jadavpur University, claimed, “It is not that education can do all the good in society and that if everyone is educated, then everything will be good. It needs something more, like the courage to speak truth and stand against injustices. We see every day that educated people either remain involved in some crime or do not utter a word when it happens before their eyes.”
The 25-year-old continued, “They fear being targeted and attacked, so they do not raise their voice against injustice. But fear is the main cause of fascism. They want you to be fearful.”
Mansharul praised young students like Ashraf Ali, who did not back down against ruling party leaders and filed an FIR against them when they tried to forcibly enter Hindu Hostel in February. The 21-year-old Ali is a student of BSc (Physics) at Presidency University.
Imtiaz Molla, an activist, said, “We should not be saddened. We have witnessed several problems since independence, and we have overcome many. There is a need for good coaching centers to improve education standards. And girls and boys need to learn martial arts to defend themselves.” He appealed, “Do not fear the police or goons. Do not close your doors and windows when something happens outside your homes.”
Hussain Rizvi, a social and educational activist, recalled Islamic history and how the Ansar community had supported the companions of Prophet Muhammad after the hijrat: “We should learn from the hijrat incident and the Ansar’s behavior to support others. If we can implement it in the field of education, it can bring about a major change. For that, each one of us should care for a single child and help that child get educated.”
Rizvi also informed that because of the lockdown, four lakhs fewer students appeared in the Madhyamik Board exam in Bengal, so there is a need to intervene and help get such students to return to study.
A foreign participant, Layli Uddin, Historian of South Asia from Queen Mary University London, briefly narrated why it is important to know and understand history, “We have to know who we are. So I chose history.”
“Along with other subjects, it is important to study history. It does help to know our ancient culture. It is also important to study politics and visual arts, to understand everything that is going on in the world clearly,” she added.
Shamim Akhtar, an advocate at Kolkata High Court who used to raise issues quite often against the mismanagement of educational institutions also addressed the gathering.
Two journalists Nurullah Jawaid and Afaque Haider played the role of the host to the special iftar.