Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam will be India’s first state where Indian civilisation, irrespective of religion, would be taught after the closing down of hundreds of government-run madrassas and Sanskrit tols (schools), state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on December 14.

Sarma said that the Assam cabinet in its meeting chaired by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on December 13 approved the proposal to close down all government-run madrassas and Sanskrit tols (schools), and a bill in this regard would be moved during the winter session of the state assembly beginning from December 28.

“All the 683 government-run madrassas would be converted into the general schools and 97 Sanskrit tols would be handed over to Kumar Bhaskarvarma Sanskrit University. These Sanskrit tols would be converted into centres of learning and research where Indian culture, civilisation and nationalism would be studied. Irrespective of religion, Indian culture, civilisation and nationalism would be taught in these converted educational institutions making Assam the first Indian state to teach on these themes,” Sarma told the media.

The minister, who also holds the finance and health portfolios, said that madrassas run by private organisations in Assam would not be shut down.

Sarma earlier said that the state government had been spending Rs 260 crore annually for running the madrassas and “the government cannot spend public money for religious teaching”.

“In order to bring uniformity, teaching the Quran at the cost of government exchequer could not be allowed to continue,” he had said.

‘Madrassa education started in Assam during British regime’

The education minister on December 14 said that madrassa education had started in 1934 when Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla was the Prime Minister of Assam during British regime.

He said that currently there are four Arabic colleges also under the State Madrassa Board and in these colleges and madrassas had two syllabus, one is purely theological subject on Islam, and the other is general syllabus prescribed by higher secondary education council.

He claimed that besides the guardians and parents, most of the students enrolled in the madrassas, want to become doctors and engineers and are not aware of the fact that these are not regular schools.

A survey conducted by a Gauhati University professor, who happens to be a Muslim, found that the parents and guardians of most of the students of the madrasas are not aware of the fact that their children are not taught the regular subjects but are imparted lessons mostly in theology.

He claimed that, most Islamic scholars are also not in favour of madrassas being run under the government and added that the madrassas were set up in the pre-Independence era and are a legacy of the Muslim League.

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