In a bold move that is bound to have far-reaching consequences, the BJP government of Assam has decided to shut down all government-run Madrassas in the state, even as notifications to the same effect are set to be released next month. A Madrassa is an Islamic school of religious teaching. Assam is said to have a total of around 1,500 Madrassas, out of which 614 are government-funded, while 900 are privately run. With the shutting down of 600-odd government-funded Madrassas in the state, a drastic fall in the number of Islamic schools in Assam is expected, which in turn will lead to Muslim children availing normal and mainstream education, which is truly in sync with the times we live in.
Announcing the same, Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “No religious educational institutions 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.” On the question of why Sanskrit tols were not being shut in a similar manner, Sarma said, “The Sanksrit tol matter was different. The main objection to government-run Sanskrit tols is that they are not transparent. We are taking steps to address this.”
Importantly, two years ago, the Assam government had abolished two controlling boards – State Madrassa Education Board and Assam Sanskrit Board and brought the Madrassas and Sanskrit tols under the purview of Secondary Board of Education Assam (SEBA) and Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University respectively. This was done in order to bring in ‘modern education’ into the Madrassas and Sanskrit tols and ‘mainstream’ them with the rest of the state and country.
Reacting to news of Assam government shutting down government Madrassas in the state, perfume baron and AIUDF Chief Badruddin Ajmal said, “You cannot shut Madrassas. After we come to power, we will take a cabinet decision to reopen these 50-60-year-old Madrassas if this government closes them forcibly.” The elections of the Assam legislative assembly are due next year, with the tide in strong favour of the BJP. The AIUDF, meanwhile, might very well ally with the Congress in a bid to overthrow the BJP government of Assam. While Tarun Gogoi and his camp are in favour of the said alliance, the Congress’ state leadership has risen up in arms against the very thought of the Grand Old Party allying with the AIUDF.
With the migration of many Muslim students to normal and genuine schools, a wave might just be in the offing, which would have many Muslim children and their parents opting against a Madrassa education. The shutting of government Madrassas is, therefore, a welcome step, and must be followed by all states.