It is not the job of a government to run institutions that teach religious scriptures and shutting down state-run madrassas and Sanskrit Tols is a secular act, Assam education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said.
Assam's Bharatiya Janata Party government will issue a notification regarding shutting down of all state-run madrassas and Sanskrit Tols in November. Madrassas are educational institutions where the Quran and the Islamic sacred law is taught along with mathematics, grammar, poetry, and history. Around 148 of contractual teachers working in the madrassas are likely to be shifted to schools under general secondary education.
Speaking to Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami on this move, Sarma said, "Assam runs nearly a thousand madrassas and spends Rs 260 crore annually on this. We have examined this and found that the state should not involve in the teaching of the Quran. That is not our job."
The Minister highlighted the demands to teach Bhagavad Geeta and the Holy Bible in the schools from other organisations and asserted that the government shall not use taxpayer funds to teach particular religious scripts. "Now since we can't run all schools on religious scriptures, we have decided to shut down madrassas and the notification will be issued in November."
The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief and MP Badruddin Ajmal has declared that if the BJP-led government shuts down government-run madrasas, his party would re-open them after winning the next year's Assembly elections. On this, Sarma said he does not seek votes in the name of religion. "If Ajmal thought that BJP is going to request votes from the Muslim community as Muslims, it is wrong. We will ask for votes from Indian citizens and not by religion."
According to State Madrassa Education Board (SMEB), there are 614 recognised madrassas in Assam. As many as 400 out of these are high madrassas, 112 are junior high madrassas and the remaining 102 are senior madrassas, the SMEB website said. Out of total recognized madrassas, 57 are for girls, 3 are for boys and 554 are co-educational.Seventeen madrassas are running under Urdu medium, it added.