Several media houses published a report by IANS saying that Assam government has decided to shut down the govt run madrassas and Sanskrit tols (school) in the state. The media report quoted state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma saying that a notification regarding this same will be issued next month, and that the decision has been taken as govt don’t want to fund religious education. Although it is true that govt run madrassas and Sanskrit Tols will no longer exist after the decision is implemented, it is misleading to report that they are being shut down. Because, they are being converted to regular schools, not being shut down entirely as indicated by the media reports. Moreover, the reason for the decision on madrassas and tols are also completely different, which is not mentioned in the IANS report.
“No religious educational institutes will be allowed to function with government funds. We will bring out a notification in November to this effect. We have nothing to say about privately-run madrassas,” Sarma said while announcing the decision. He said that the state government will bring out a notification in November to this effect. The minister also clarified that the only state-run madrasas are being shut, and privately run ‘Kherasi madrassas’ can run as usual. Earlier the Madrassa Board was dissolved and the academics of the institutions were handed over to the Board of Secondary Education.
The IANS report is misleading because, contrary to the report, the madrassas and tols are not being shut down, but actually they are being converted to regular schools. This was announced by the education minister in February this year, when he had said that a secular country should not allow religious education with public money.
It was announced by Himanta Biswa Sarma that both the Madrassas and Sanskrit tols will be converted to regular govt schools, and the jobs in those institutions will continue. He had said that the teachers who were teaching religious subjects will continue to draw their salary without having to go to the schools till their retirement, as their subjects will not be there in the converted schools. Teachers of other subjects will continue to teach those subjects.
The reason for converting govt Madrassas is correct as what the IANS report says, as the state govt has decided that a secular government should not be funding religious education. But the decision for Sanskrit tols is different, because, they are language schools, not religious schools.
Clarifying on the decision, Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that there were lots of irregularities in the way the Sanskrit tols were functioning in the state. He had said that 80% of the Sanskrit Tols had become meaningless, and they had become factories to pass the matriculation exam. He had also informed that many such tools have very few students, and there were no candidates for the 10th exams this year from several tools. He had said that govt money was being wasted in the Sankrit schools. “The objection to government-run Sanskrit tols is that they are not transparent. We are taking steps to address this,” he had added.
Therefore, the Assam govt is converting the Sanskrit tols to regular schools for corruption and irregularities, not for the same reason as Madrassas.
Sanskrit Education to continue
Although the Sanskrit tols are being converted to regular schools, it does not mean Sanskrit studies will end in the state. The language is already being taught in regular govt schools, as govt had announced in 2017 that Sanskrit will be mandatory till class 8 in 2017. According, govt schools have started to include it gradually, according to the availability of teachers. Many private schools voluntarily teach the subject in their schools too.
Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University in Nalbari in the state is offering higher education in Sanskrit language and ancient studies. The University was granted 12-B status by the University Grants Commission (UGC) earlier this year. Therefore, the Sanskrit education in the state will continue in regular schools where it is taught, and with the university that offers higher studies and research in the language, along with ancient studies.
Therefore, govt will continue to fund education of Sanskrit language through regular schools and the university. On the other hand, Assam govt will no longer fund education into Islamic studies.
Decision was announced years ago
The state govt had announced the intention to end religious and separate language schools in 2017 itself. As part of that initiative, in 2018, the Assam government had scrapped the two controlling boards — State Madrassa Education Board and Assam Sanskrit Board. The Madrassas were brought under the Secondary Board of Education Assam (SEBA) and the Sanskrit tols were brought under Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University respectively. The move to merge two bodies was to introduce modern education to students and to bring them into the mainstream.
Reportedly, there are more than 600 government-run madrassas in Assam and 900 other private madrassas, which are run by Jamiat Ulama. The Assam government spends nearly Rs 4 crore to run these madrassas in the state and about Rs 1 crore on Sanskrit tols annually.
We will re-open madrassas, says AIUDF Badruddin Ajmal
Meanwhile, the opposition has opposed any move to shut down madrassas in the state. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) supremo and Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Ajmal said that his party would re-open them after winning the assembly elections scheduled next year if the state government decided to close down government-run madrassas.
“You cannot shut madrassas. After we come to power, we will take a cabinet decision to reopen these 50-60-year-old institutions of madrassas if the present government closes them forcibly,” said the AIUDF leader.
The All Assam Minority Students’ Union attacked the Assam government and said that the decision to shut down madrassas is to “harass Muslims and denying them basic rights” guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Madrasas don’t only teach Islamic scriptures and Arabic, they also teach subjects like any regular school,” the AAMSU said in a statement.