Sanitation and hygiene practices are primary teachings at a Madrassa in Assam

NURUL ISLAM LASKAR

Mufti Nasihur Rahman, otherwise a low profile person, is the Principal of a girls’ madrassa in Mangaldai of Darrang District in Assam. But he is a big-time fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. At a time when madrassas and anything to do with madrassas are in the news for wrong reasons, Mufti has hit the headlines for his unique initiative in propagating the importance of sanitation and hygiene in the society in general and in the poverty-stricken Muslim hamlets in particular. So much so that, today the Mufti is more popular as the “Swachata Maulana” than by his own name.

The 21st annual day function of his madrassa, Al Jamiatul Islamia Mangaldai Banat Madrassa, was held on Sunday and true to his mission, the day’s proceedings started with a cleanliness drive in which Mufti led a group of girl students to clean up the premises and surroundings holding brooms in their hands. The Madrassa is primarily residential and out of its 150 students, only about ten are day scholars. Ideally situated by the National Highway No 15, this madrassa could become the nucleus for a movement that could revolutionise the mindset of the Muslim community towards health, hygiene and sanitation.

Mufti was born in 1983 at No 1 Thekerabari Village of Darrang District and had his elementary education at the village primary school. Then he studied in three different madrassas in the State until he went to Darul Ulum Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most renowned Islamic theological institutions in the world. In a stay spanning from 2002 to 2007, he completed his education there, then taught in a madrassa in Deoband for a year and came back to Assam to join as a teacher at Madinatul Ulum Madrassa in Dalgaon, Assam. To fulfil the aspirations of his native area, he returned to Mangaldai and took over the post of the Principal of the Girls’ madrassa in 2010.

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What makes Mufti a class apart from his contemporaries is his concern for the environment and the dedication with which he keeps on motivating people to go for cleanliness habits and maintenance of hygiene both at home and in public places. Mufti says, “There are about 700 girls’ madrassas in Assam. But ours is different because we lay emphasis on two things in addition to the syllabus – sanitation and skills education. That is the reason for which today students right from Dhubri upto Sadiya are attracted to our institution and you will find girls from across the State in our hostel.”

Last month, Mufti went to nearby No 4 Nangli Char, a habitat on one of the islands on the Brahmaputra, to enquire about the welfare of a student who was ill and had gone back to the village. Mufti had to stay overnight and in the morning he asked the residents to show him a lavatory where he could respond to the call of nature. The villagers had none and informed him that they had always defecated in the open. The Mufti asked them to bring a spade, a few bamboo poles, and some thatch. In a while he had constructed a toilet and that changed the history of sanitation in the village.

Nowadays, Mufti is often invited by different institutions and NGOs to visit their areas and share the story of his sanitation mission. Even the UNICEF had invited him to take part in a discourse in Guwahati on February 17 this year wherein spiritual leaders from across India along with Union and State Ministers had taken part to deliberate on sanitation needs of the society. On the following day, the Mufti was asked to deliberate at an open session at the Veterinary Grounds in Khanapara Guwahati where the State Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was present.

As things stand today, the Mufti and his girls’ madrassa are sure to become the epicentre for a positive revolution that can transform the mindset of the Muslim community in villages towards their health, hygiene, and sanitation needs. The “Swachchata Maulana” has emerged as a true brand ambassador of the Swachcha Bharat Mission in the remote and inaccessible areas of Assam.

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