Murshidabad of West Bengal is the 8th largest populated district in India which has around 75 lakh population. Even after seven decades of independence, Murshidabad district is still deprived of a single university. Murshidabad is having a long historical significance, in which its name was derived from the name of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. The history of Murshidabad can be traced to 18th century, when Kathlab Khan was appointed as Diwan of Bengal Subah by the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb in 1701 AD. Soon after his appointment, Kathlab Khan shifted his office from Dacca (present Dhaka) to Maksudabad. In 1704 Aurangazeb honored him with Murshid Quli Khan and granted the permission to change the name of Maksudabad as Murshidabad. Murshidabad was the seat of administration for some period in the Colonial India since the conquest of Bengal by defeating Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula in 1757.
Historically speaking, Murshidabad district had been lagging behind other districts like Calcutta, Burdwan, Hooghly, Dacca, Nadiya, Midnapore in terms of education since the colonial period. In 2006, Murshidabad was identified among 250 most backward districts of the country by Ministry of Panchayat Raj. According to Census 2011, the district is a densely Muslim populated area with Muslim population standing at 66.27% (4,707,573) of total population. During this time the literacy rate of the district could only achieve fourth position from the bottom with 66.59%, which is far below than national average of 74.04% and state’s average of 77.08%. Furthermore, the district is holding bottom most position in the rank of literacy rates since the Census 1951. During 2004, Murshidabad was one among four districts namely Dinajpur , Puruliya and Malda, which were educationally dying villages in West Bengal. Although religion-wise demography details are not available at village level, the district is Muslim concentrated one along with Malda and Dinajpur. So, the deprivation of education is also related to the pathetic condition of Muslims in West Bengal.
According to West Bengal Development Report 2012 the status of NER (Net Enrollment Rates) of Musrshidabad was worse than that of the state’s average rates. NER is 27 at elementary level, 61.4 at upper primary level and 98.4 at primary level, where as the state’s average NER is 88 (Elementary), 78 (Upper Primary) and 98.5 (Primary level). PTR (Pupil Teacher Ratio) of the district is much worse. RTE Act 2009 has suggested that the PTR should be 31 for Primary and 29 for Upper Primary Level, whereas in Murshidabad has 70 and 65 PTR at Primary and Upper Primary level. In 2012-13 EDI (Education Development Index) was 0.145 with 17th rank in the state which is far lesser than the state’s EDI of 0.527. In terms of higher education, there is no single university in the district according to AISHE (All India Survey for Higher Education) 2017. There exists only one government engineering college in the district.
There are many educational policies and reports, which have recommended for proper attention to the district level education. In 2006, Sachar Committee identified Murshidabad as one of the educationally-backward districts of the country. But still there exists negative attitude from the part of the state governments towards providing educational facilities to the district. One should note that, the state of West Bengal was ruled by CPI(M) government for 34 years. Rather than focusing on providing educational facilities to the district which is concentrated by Muslims, former CM of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had spread stigma and stereotypes due to its demographical nature and geographical location. On January 2002, speaking at a public meating in Siliiguri, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said that there were many madrasas not affiliated to the West Bengal Madrasa Board, where anti-national terrorists, including operatives of the Pakistan intelligence agency, were active. He also added that, ‘We will not allow unaffiliated madrasas to run here’ in the context of Murshidabad, which obviously negates the fundamental right to form an institution provided by Indian Constitution. He also instructed the District Administration to carry out the survey of all madrasas in Murshidabad and to make a report on the number of students, teachers and sources of funding. This same attitude of state government towards madrasas and surveillance of those madrasas can be only seen in the present UP government. However former CM gave clarification on only siliguri remark, after getting backlash in the media. Rather than providing quality education at all levels to Murshidabad, the state governments of CPIM and TMC have spread suspicion and stigma against Muslim population of the district.
Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) condemns this selective discrimination against Murshidabad district in the field of education. SIO observes that the clear reason of selective discrimination against the district since last 40 years is due to Muslim concentration of the district. Along with ensuring quality education at all levels, SIO is firm on demanding a university in Murshidabad. SIO will make all possible means to advance its genuine demand of a university in the district.