Educationist Kazi Masum Akhtar who was awarded the Padma Shri this year for his contribution in the field of literature and education.
“Educationist and model headmaster - known for promoting women rights and patriotism among children”, reads his Padma Shri citation.
Akhtar’s efforts though have come at a cost and he has revealed that he still fears for his life in Bengal, around five years after he was assaulted by an Islamist mob for asking his student to sing the national anthem.
Besides getting assaulted, Akhtar has been on the radar of Islamists who have issued various fatwas against him over the years.
Big Target Of Islamists
Infamously in March 2015, Akhtar was brutally assaulted by an Islamist mob comprising of Maulanas, after he being the headmaster of a South Kolkata madrasa asked his students to sing the national anthem for the Republic Day.
As reported back then, Muslim clerics and their henchmen had brutally beaten Akhtar for trying to train his students in singing the national anthem at the government recognised Talpukur Aara High Madrasa.
The radical Islamists had opposed the singing of the national anthem by calling it “sacrilege” and alleged that it is a “Hindutva song”.
The brutal assault resulted in a severe head injury to Akhtar who had to spend months getting treated at a hospital. Despite being a government appointee, the Islamists banned him from entering the region near the Madrasa.
As part of the conditions put forth to allow his entry, the Islamists demanded that he ditch his regular shirt and pants in favour of the traditional Muslim dress of Kurta-payjama.
The clerics also demanded that he forsake his clean shaven look and start growing a beard. They instructed him to regularly send them photos to prove that he was growing his facial hair.
The Islamists were also irked by Akhtar’s efforts to encourage the education of Muslim girls and attempts to persuade their parents not to marry them off at an early age.
Akhtar also ran a campaign to denounce the practice of Triple Talaq, and vote bank politics targeting the Muslim community. As part of his effort to fight against Triple Talaq, he collected 1 lakh signatures against the practice and sent a memorandum to the President.
These efforts to bring reforms in the Muslim community has meant that Akhtar has been at the receiving end of multiple fatwas, one of which was issued as he decided to celebrate the birthday of Rabindranath Tagore.
Still Fears For His Life
As reported by The Print, Akhtar has revealed that he still fears for his life till date. Despite various complaints and FIRs by Akhtar against the radical Islamists responsible for assaulting him, the perpetrators are still roaming freely. Akhtar blames the “appeasement politics” of Mamata Banerjee led state government for the same.
Despite a local court instructing the cops to arrest the perpetrators, the police failed to take action and later filed a report claiming that the accused were absconding. Following the attack in 2015, the Kolkata police commissioner had also declared that he was not in a position to provide security to Akhtar as his presence in the Madrasa’s area might lead to communal tension.
“I know the government will not touch them as it will go against the appeasement policies of the ruling party. I still fear for my life and I can be murdered any day”, Akhtar had been quoted as saying.
Soon after the brutal assault, Akhtar was removed as the Madrasa’s headmaster. He is now the principal of a government school in Kolkata’s Jadavpur.
Recently, he had slammed the anti-CAA protesters in the state and asserted that the Muslim community has nothing to be worried about. He also dismissed the protesters’ patriotic display as acting.
“I feel so amused and surprised when I see the same people who hit me with rods and sticks in broad daylight for asking my students to sing the national anthem, are now sitting at protest venues with national flags and singing the same. This is a farce”, said Akhtar.