Assam to shut down British-era Madrasas

Assam govt to shut down British-era Madrasas, minority body angry

Assam education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and CM Sarbananda Sonowal in Guwahati on Wednesday. (Photo credit: Assam govt.)

The BJP-led government in Assam has decided to shut down the state-aided Madrasas, some of whom were established during the British era, saying religious teaching could not be allowed with the nation's money.

Assam education minister and firebrand BJP leader, Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said that the Madrasas and Sanskrit tols, which were run with the government's money would be closed down in the next three to four months.

"We have nothing to say if someone wants to teach religion with own money. But this can not continue with the nation's money. If we have to support teaching of Arabic, we must also allow the teaching of the Gita or the Bible," Sarma told reporters here, after a function of the education department.

Sarma, however, said the decision was not aimed at any religion as the department also decided to close down the Sanskrit tols.

Reacting sharply to the decision, All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) said it was part of the BJP government's move to harass the Muslims and deny them all basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. "Sarma has been repeatedly trying to harass the Muslims in Assam - be it through the NRC or by denying education, jobs or employment. It is his conspiracy. Madrassas don't teach only religion. There is a single subject of Arabic but all other subjects are also taught in a Madrasa, like in any other educational institute," AAMSU president, Rejaul Karim Sarkar told DH.

There are 614 Madrasas in Assam at present, which are recognised by the State Madrassa Education Board. According to the information uploaded in the website of the board, the Madrassa institutions were set up in Assam by the East India Company in 1780. These were further improved by educationist Maulana Abu Naser Mohammad Wahid in 1915. 

Although Sarma said that the department was also going to close the Sanskrit tols, officials said most of them were already facing a crisis due to dwindling interest among students about learning Sanskrit. There are about 1,000 Sanskrit tols in Assam but only 97 are aided by the state government. 

Sarma said the government would merge those institutions with normal high schools and higher secondary schools imparting modern education. 

"If the Madrasas are teaching only religion, how the students passing out of the Madrasas are becoming doctors, engineers, and lawyers?" Sarkar asked.

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