Other States

Assam’s move to shut madrasas, Sanskrit tols draws criticism

The Assam government’s decision to shut down all State-run madrasas (Muslim theological schools) and tols (ashrams teaching Sanskrit and religious scriptures) and convert them into high schools and higher secondary schools has come in for sharp criticism.

State Education and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had on Wednesday said that madrasas and tols run or funded by the government would be restructured as regular schools within five months. This was because “it’s not a secular government’s job to provide religious education”. He, however, made it clear that the decision would not affect the madrasas and the tols run by individuals or NGOs. He also said teachers handling scriptures and other religious education in these institutions would continue to be employed till retirement but not teach the subjects.

The decision has not gone down well with the minority and Hindu organisations.

“The BJP-run government is trying to show its secular face by washing its hands off Sanskrit tols along with madrasas. Leave apart madrasas, we are not in favour of such treatment towards Sanskrit, the mother of most languages on earth,” said Aminul Islam, general secretary of All India United Democratic Front. Mr. Islam said the government should rather think about regular schools that are dying because of lack of students and filling up of the 47,000 vacant posts of teachers across the State.

‘Against Constitution’

The All Assam Minority Students’ Union said Mr. Sarma’s move was in keeping with the agenda of “harassing Muslims and denying them basic rights” guaranteed by the Constitution. “Madrasas don’t only teach Islamic scriptures and Arabic, they also teach subjects like any regular school,” it said in a statement.

A group of satradhikars (monastic heads) on Majuli have criticised the decision too. Majuli has 32 satras or Vaishnav monasteries adhering to the teachings of the 15th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva and 10 of these have Sanskrit tols.

“Sanskrit is part of our culture. We cannot accept this decision,” said Janardhan Deva Goswami, the satradhikar of the Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli, which is also Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s Assembly constituency.

The State Madrasa Education Board recognises 614 madrasas in Assam. The State has more than 900 Sanskrit tols but only 97 are government-aided.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 9:28:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assams-move-to-shut-madrasas-sanskrit-tols-draws-criticism/article30815050.ece

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