Field Notes: 'Education, Not Ram Temple, Is Important To Me'


On 7 August 2023, I listened to the speeches of madrassa teachers in Uttar Pradesh at a protest they staged at the Eco Park in Lucknow, demanding the honorarium the union government and the state government owed them for years.

One of them, Krishna Kumar Kanojia, 44, who teaches mathematics and social science at the Madrasa Ahle Sunnat Nizamul Uloom in Maharajganj district, said he was close to chief minister Yogi Adityanath. His family has been a member of Gorakhnath Math since 1992. 

“I am also religious, but I believe that education is more important than temples for the development of any country. The plight of teachers, students, and education in this country becomes clear from how teachers agitate daily for their outstanding salaries or new recruitment,” Kanojia said in his speech. 

“Donations worth crores of rupees were sent for the construction of the Ram Temple, but madrassa teachers have been begging the government for his outstanding salary for years. The Ram Temple is not important to me, but the education of poor children is important to me. Even if there is no temple, there is no problem. There should be employment. No temple will decide the development of this country. Only a better education system can develop a country.”

At around 2:30 pm, the police had closed the main door of the park, and whoever was involved in the protest was not allowed to go out.

I told them that I was a journalist, not a teacher, but a senior police officer said the park gate would open only after 5 pm, and I could only leave then. 

“It doesn't matter whether you are from the media, you were involved in this protest, you cannot go out,” the officer said. 

I asked Anant Pratap Singh, the media in charge of Madarsa Adhunikikaran Sikshak Ekta Samiti, Uttar Pradesh, a committee of madrassa teachers linked to the madrassa modernisation scheme launched by the Centre in 1993, whether they were not allowed to protest outside. 

Singh replied that they used to protest at Laxman Mela Ground near the Lucknow Vidhan Sabha a few years ago, but now they are not allowed to protest outside.

“The administrative officers and ministers used to come there to listen to our demands, but this Eco Park is like an open jail,” the teacher said. 

“Whenever we have demonstrated on the streets, our teachers have suffered losses,” he said. “Many teachers had to go to jail, and some teachers got injured in clashes with the police. It is our democratic right to protest, but now it is also being taken away by the government.”

Read Shivani Chaudhry’s full story here

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