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Assam: Private board headed by Badruddin Ajmal runs 1000 madrasas, CM Himanta Biswa assures strict actions against jihadi elements

Some Muslim leaders are apparently concerned about the growth of private madrasas. According to Advocate Hafiz Rashid Choudhury, a working committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, there is a need for a regulatory agency to supervise the activities and functions of the madrasas.

The nearly 1,000 private madrasas currently running in Assam are being considered for regulation by the state government led by chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. This follows the recent detention of 11 people in the districts of Morigaon, Barpeta, Guwahati, and Goalpara for their purported connections to international terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Bangladesh-based Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).

The mastermind of this network, Mustafa alias Mufti Mustafa, was imprisoned with other people on Wednesday 27th July 2022. He was a teacher at the Saruchala Al-Jamiatus Salihat Madarasatul Banat in the Saharia Gaon village of Morigaon.

According to a report by India Today Northeast, there are at least 1,000 private madrasas operating in Assam, up from 788 in 2016, despite the fact that there is no formal tally of them. Government records regarding these madrasas affiliation are not proper. The state government has already made the decision to turn government-aided madrasas into conventional schools.

Assam’s Education Minister Ranoj Pegu said, “We are collecting reports and examining if we can enforce certain rules in the private madrasas and give direction to impart modern education there. We are taking legal opinion. I am not aware of any board which is running these private madrasas. We don’t have any specific data on these madrasas.” Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, the director general of the Assam Police, asserted that the police had conducted a survey of these madrasas and had full information. Nonetheless, the officer withheld the specifics.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s strict action

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated that a few more madrasas will be investigated by the police. According to a report by The Sentinel, Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “We have already sealed two madrasas for their jihadi link. The government has the policy to seal madrasas if it gets any concrete complaints regarding their jihadi link. The authorities will admit the students of the sealed madrasas in nearby general schools.”

He added, “We have no government madrasas in the state. We have already closed down 750 government madrasas. Only privately run madrasas are operational. However, if we get any concrete information on their link with fundamentalists, we will not have any second thought to take action against them.”

A private body governing the madrasas

The report by India Today Northeast revealed that the All Assam Tanzim Madaris Qawmiya, with its headquarters in Nilbagan in the Hojai district, governs all private madrasas in the state of Assam. It is a private board that controls madrasas in adjacent states Nagaland and Meghalaya as well. These madrasas in Assam have enrollments of close to 100,000 students. Most of these madrasas are located in the districts of Nagaon, Hojai, Dhubri, and Goalpara, where enrollment rates are also significantly greater.

It further states that the madrasa where Mustafa taught, Saruchala Al-Jamiatus Salihat Madrasatul Banat, is also affiliated with All Assam Tanzim Madaris Qawmiya. According to Morigaon SP Aparna Natarajan, Mustafa was also heading another private madrasa from which he was detained. However, according to government officials, Mustafa’s arrest does not necessarily imply that all madrasas, or the students and instructors connected to them, have any links to terrorism.

All Assam Tanzim Madaris Qawmiya

The All Assam Tanzim Madaris Qawmiya, formerly known as Madaris-E Quawmiya, was founded in 1955 with the aim of not only establishing madrasas but also optimizing their administrative and educational processes. It was given its present name in 1982. Initially limiting its operations to the southern portions of the Nagaon district, the board steadily broadened its reach. Badaruddin Ajmal, leader of the AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) and a wealthy perfumes businessman, serves as the board’s president.

According to the board’s preamble, it was established to protect and propagate Islam’s philosophy as well as “Islamic science” and knowledge around the globe in order to create individuals who could counteract the so-called falsehoods and misrepresentations allegedly being promoted about Islam and madrasas as well as dismantle the anti-Muslim influences. According to Moulana Abdul Qadir Quasimi, general secretary of All Assam Tanzim Madaris Qawmiya, the board does not provide donations to madrasas, yet, under the promise of secrecy, the chiefs of several madrasas acknowledged to India Today that they do get regular funding from the board.

More girl students enrolled in recent years

Remarkably, one of the three types of madrasas in the state is a Banat madrasa (intended solely for girl students); the other two were Arabia (a quami madrasa controlled by the community) and Hafizia (where Quran is memorized). The number of Banat madrasas in Assam grew from 140 to 219 between 2016 and 2021, reflecting the biggest increase of the three.

The number of Madrasas exclusively run for girls has sharply increased in the last few years. Image Source: India Today Northeast

Mustafa’s madrasa was not affiliated with this board

Although the second madrasa Mustafa was operating was not connected to the board, Moulana Abdul Qadir Quasimi acknowledged that Mustafa had been working part-time in a madrasa that was recognized by the board. Quasimi acknowledges that mistakes have been made in spite of the board’s tight supervision.

He said, “We have asked madrasas to ensure that no suspicious people are admitted. Not only teachers but even students should also be scrutinized. No unidentified person should be allowed to stay as a guest. There are some who manage to evade scrutiny and we cannot install CCTV cameras everywhere.”

Some Muslim bodies and leaders are worried about mushrooming of madrasas

Some Muslim leaders are apparently concerned about the growth of private madrasas. According to Advocate Hafiz Rashid Choudhury, a working committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, there is a need for a regulatory agency to supervise the activities and functions of the madrasas.

Choudhury said, “Modern education like English, history and social studies need to be included along with religious education in the madrasas. A subject on comparative religion should also be introduced to strengthen the integrity of the nation.”

Rejaul Karim Sarkar, head of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, criticized the rise in the number of madrasas that did not achieve their fundamental goals, as per the report in India Today. He said, “We do need madrasas, but it doesn’t mean that these institutions start spreading everywhere. Many are functioning even though they can’t produce one good student.” Moulana Abdul Qadir Quasimi has also said that there are more madrasas than required.

After Mufti Mustafa’s arrest, the government scrutiny of madrasas is expected to increase.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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