On Monday, the BJP government in Assam tabled a Bill in the state Assembly, seeking to abolish all state-run madarsas (Islamic schools) and transform them into regular schools.
As per reports, Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma proposed the abolishment of Assam Madarsa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995 and Assam Madarsa Education (Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madarsa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018, amidst strong opposition. He said that although madarsas will be converted to regular schools, Arabic language will be continued to be taught in such schools.
While speaking about the government decision, Sharma emphasised that the government is abolishing only the teaching of the Quran in these state-run madarsas. He asked, “Madarsa education has been going on since the pre-Independence era… What if someone goes to court today and asks if the government is spending Rs 600 crore for teaching the Quran, why is it not spending the same in teaching the Bible…(or) the Bhagwad Gita?”
Himanta Biswa Sharma highlighted that the proposed law will not regulate state-run spiritual institutions and not private schools. He added that there is no attempt to stop religious education in private institutions as it would be against constitutional principles. It is important to note that there are currently 189 state-run high madarsas and madarsa higher secondary schools and 542 pre-senior, senior madarsa and Arabic colleges.
Assam government had proposed the idea since February
Earlier in February, Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma told media that it is not the job of government to teach religion, religious scriptures and Arabic and other languages for religious purposes. “If someone is teaching religion using own money that is no problem, but if state funding is used to teach Quran, then we have to teach Gita, Bible also,” he said. Therefore, the govt run madarsas, High madarsas and Sanskrit Tols (schools) operating in the state will be converted to regular schools very soon.
While answering a question on provincialisation of madarsas during a ‘Cut Motion’ on the Education department in Assam Assembly in September, he said that government madarsas will be shut from November, so no question of new madarsas being provincialised arise. On December 14, Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the state cabinet has decided to make education secular in the state. Hence, 198 high madarsas and 542 other madarsas in Assam will be operating as general educational institutes. He further said that these institutes will not give admission to students for theological studies.