The state government was spending Rs 3-4 crore annually on madrasas and about Rs 1 crore on Sanskrit tols.
Himanta Biswa Sarma
Guwahati: In what has invited angry reactions from various quarters, the Assam government has taken a decision not to spend public money on religious education by shutting down nearly 614 government aided madrasas and 101 Sanskrit tols (Institutes) and converting them in to high and higher secondary schools.
“Teaching Arabic and religious texts is not the government’s job. In a secular country, religious teachings cannot be funded by the government,” education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
The state government was spending `3-4 crore annually on madrasas and about `1 crore on Sanskrit tols. “If religious texts are allowed to be taught in state-run madrasas, the Gita, or for that matter the Bible, should also be taught with government funding,” Mr Sarma argued.
Even after closure of aided madrasas, the government has decided to pay salaries to the teachers of these institutions till their retirement. “Teachers employed in these madrasas can stay home without having to worry about finding employment elsewhere as government will continue to pay their salaries till their retirement from the service,” said the minister while clarifying that madrasas are not targeted on any religious ground. “Assam has nearly 900 private madrasas which is funded by the Jamiat Ulama,” said the minister hoping that Sanskrit tols may also continue to function a usual.
Jamiat Ulama’s legal cell convenor Masud Akhtar Zaman however said that the closure of state-aided madrasas would not affect the private madrasa education system in any way. “Our madrasas do not depend on the government for a single rupee. Almost all our students are from BPL families, and we take care of their boarding, food and clothing.” Mr Zaman also clarified that there was more to madrasas than religious education.
Two years ago, the government had disbanded the madrasa education and Sanskrit boards to bring all madrasas under Secondary Board of Education, Assam, and the Sanskrit tols under the Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University in Nalbari. This was apparently done to bring modern education and teaching methods to these traditional institutions.
The website of the erstwhile state madrassa education board defines “madrassa” as an Arabic word for “an educational institution or school imparting education to all, irrespective of religion, caste, creed and gender”.