Mohammad Ashfaq (top left)

In a major impact of the report published by OpIndia, Mohammad Ashfaq, deputy registrar of the National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) located in Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore, has been expelled from his job. In January 2023, OpIndia published a detailed report on his illegal conduct of classes, misinterpretation of Hindu characters and an utterly arbitrary way of managing and operating the institute.

The investigation against Ashfaq was launched after OpIndia’s report and it resulted in his removal from his job. Along with this, the additional charge of the Deputy Director of the Disabled Sports Center in Gwalior has also been taken away from him.

After the report of OpIndia, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) launched an agitation for the dismissal of Mohammad Ashfaq in the state. Sehore MLA Sudesh Rai also wrote a letter to Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar Khatik demanding strict action. NIMHR comes under this central ministry. Several financial irregularities of Ashfaq in the institution also came to fore during the investigation. Later on May 22, 2023, the director of NIMHR issued an order for the dismissal of Mohammad Ashfaq. It stated that “Ashfaq was appointed to the post of deputy registrar on May 30, 2022 on a two-year probation period. Now it has been decided to terminate his service with immediate effect.”

Letter against Ashfaq was sent to PMO

In a letter addressed to the PMO, students at the National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) had made some serious accusations against Mohammad Ashfaq, the institution’s deputy registrar. In the letter dated December 16, 2022, Mohammad Ashfaq was accused of insulting the historical epic Mahabharata by poking fun at some of the characters while lecturing the students about mental health. Furthermore, students had accused him of unilaterally running the institute like a ‘madarsa’ and forcing his Islamic beliefs on the students. He had also been accused of harassment.

The letter further stated that the students at the institution were under ‘mental pressure’ due to Ashfaq. “Immediately pay attention to the institute, otherwise it will become a complete jihadi base. He (Mohammed Ashfaq) threatens to spoil our future, so sending this letter to you without signing. You save this national property from Jihadis,” the letter roughly read.

Speaking to OpIndia, Mohammad Ashfaq admitted that he conducted classes even though he was primarily a deputy registrar. Ashfaq, however, refuted the allegation levelled against him, terming them incorrect.

OpIndia reported the matter first in January, 2023

After hearing the children’s complaint, there was much hush on the matter at hand. Even the main stream media failed to report on the terrible event. On January 23, 2023, OpIndia released a report outlining the institution’s condition. Mohammad Ashfaq admitted to taking the class during the conversation we had, but he refuted the other claims. He said that some students were unable to take the exam because of poor attendance, and that they must have complained.

But when we spoke with several of the pupils at the institution and some past and present employees, the information that emerged confirmed that this institute is being managed in accordance with the regulations in force. Additionally, it was discovered that the institute had no such environment prior to the hiring of Mohammad Ashfaq.

After OpIndia’s report, a Delhi-based PMO investigative team travelled to Sehore. Ashfaq was questioned. The Vigilance team began looking into the claims of financial misappropriation made against him. He lost his additional duty for the Gwalior center. Following this, national media outlets and neighbourhood newspapers began covering the story. Local governmental officials and student organisations like ABVP also later spoke up.

About NIMHR and its courses

The National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) is the country’s only institute of its sort. It is the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision. It was started in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh, in 2019. It is currently operated out of the old Zila Panchayat building. The institute’s new campus is being built on approximately 5 acres of land in Sekdakhedi village, Sehore district, along the Bhopal-Indore highway, at a cost of approximately Rs 180 crore. The first National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation in the country will have nine Departments and will conduct 12 courses to offer diploma, certificate, graduate, postgraduate and M.Phil degrees in the area of mental health rehabilitation.

Currently, the institute offers three courses, namely:

– Diploma in Vocational Rehabilitation Intellectual Disability (DVR-ID)
– Diploma in Community-Based Rehabilitation (DCBR)
– Certificate Course in Care Giving (CCCG)

DVR-ID is a one-year course, DCBR is two years, and CCCG is a ten-month course. Each course has 30 seats. The institute currently has more than 100 students. Approximately 60% of these are female students.

Its important today to speak up

Mohammad Ashfaq was charged with converting a national institution out of a fervent desire for religion into a madarsa. We are aware, however, that there are other instances of religious infiltration in several of our institutions. Meanwhile, a case in point of fostering love jihad and religious extremism as well as propaganda against the nation and the army has also come to light while students are ostensibly enrolled in a government law institution in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. We must protect each of our institutions from people like Mohammad Ashfaq. Given this, it’s important to monitor what’s happening in the institutions nearby. If you notice something strange, speak out. It is essential to speak out. OpIndia had also raised its voice. And its outcome has also created a change.