The 350-year-old Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School in Delhi's Ajmeri Gate has been asked to prove its minority status

It is a feature the 350-year-old Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School — nestled on the edge of Old Delhi – thought it always had — its minority character. Looks like not for long, if the Muslim institution fails to satisfy the Delhi Directorate of Education of its status. In a circular sent to the school on May 10 by the office of the Deputy Director of Education, Central/New Delhi district, the school — a lifeline for the children of the community residing in the Walled City area — was asked to prove its minority status within five days or else be treated as a non-minority school.

Atyab Siddiqui, the manager of the school, says, “We have received the letter from the office of P.D. Yadav, the Deputy Director of Education, Central/ New Delhi district. For the first time in its history, the school has been asked to prove its minority status.” The circular, he says, “has surprised the school as the Directorate itself had accepted it as a minority institution in response to a petition we had submitted to the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions in 2008 and also in an RTI filed by the school.”

He says, “We have been serving the community for hundreds of years. The school itself started as a madrasa long back in 1692. What amazes us is that for all these years the institution was considered to be a Muslim minority institution but suddenly the desire has crept up to seek evidence of its character. There has been no fundamental change of circumstances for the school to be considered otherwise. So where is the sudden confusion?”

The school raised the point in its reply to the DDE circular on May 14. It stated, “If an update indeed needs to be done on our status, I would like to draw your attention to our scheme of management which very explicitly states that ours is a Urdu medium, Muslim minority school. This has also been recognised and made very explicit in a reply by the Directorate itself, to an RTI dated 04/11/2008 where the Anglo Arabic School has been listed amongst the minority aided schools of Delhi.

“Additionally, the Directorate, itself, while deposing before the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, has accepted the Anglo Arabic School to be a minority school.”

Siddiqui claims, “It could perhaps be an act of retribution in response to a letter we forwarded to the Education Officer, Zone-XXVII, District Central, last September which among other things, raised the issue of step-motherly treatment meted out to the aided minority schools, especially those run by the Muslim community.” Across Delhi, he states, “Only two Muslim community-run schools — Fatehpuri Muslim Senior Secondary School and Quami Senior Secondary School — have the recognition of a minority institution (are in possession of a minority certificate). That is why we had petitioned the Commission but withdrew it once the Directorate accepted our status. Though we never received a certificate, we thought the matter is closed.”

He notes that in a city with such a large population of Muslims, “it is strange that only two schools have minority status.”

The DDE circular mentions at the end that “All government aided schools under the jurisdiction of Central/New Delhi district have been asked to submit their copy of minority certificate in their concerned zonal office to update the date. If it is not submitted by May 15, it will be assumed that your school is not a minority school, and then in future it will be treated as a non-minority school.”

Despite repeated attempts, the Deputy Director of Education of the district couldn't be reached.