In a big move by the state government, Assam has decided to close all state-run Madrassas and Sanskrit Schools (Sanskrit Tools). The decision has been taken after a detailed deliberation, sources said. Speaking to the media, NEDA Convener and Education Minister of Assam Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the decision has been taken to uphold the secular fabric.
"You cannot let schools give religious teaching at the expense of the government. If you teach the Quran or Geeta, you will also have to teach the Bible. So, it was decided to do away with the State-run Madrassas and the Sanskrit Tools," Sarma said. He also said that there are around 1200 Madrassas and 200 Sanskrit Schools in the State.
Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma further stated that these schools will not be abruptly shut down, but instead will be converted into regular schools, where general education will be provided leaving aside the religious teachings. "The teachers who were there to teach religious subjects will get their pensions and other benefits," the minister said.
When asked what made the government take this step, the Education Minister said, "We don't have a separate body to look after these affairs, it was difficult to run as there was no separate board to evaluate. So, we have decided to convert them." He also stressed on the fact that the modern education system is essential for the growth and development of society.
Further stating that the Madrassas and Sanskrit Schools which are being run by NGOs and charitable trust, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said that guidelines will be framed to ensure that they put stress on regular subjects too. The minister also made it clear that a new set of guidelines will be made soon in order to ensure that a child is being sent to a Madrassa or a Sanskrit School after proper disclosure by the parents.
"A child, being a minor who has not attained the age of 14, cannot enjoy fundamental rights, so he cannot choose. So, the parents will have to make proper disclosure in this regard while sending their child to a Madrassa," Sarma said.
Meanwhile, the AIUDF, who is in opposition has termed the move as a bid to appease the RSS. Speaking to Republic Media Network, AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam said, "The government is doing so just under the instructions of the RSS. They don't have any genuine intention."
Islam further added that if upholding secular principles is the reason behind, the government should do it in all aspects and not just in this regard.