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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma cracks the whip on Madrassas

In an unprecedented move, Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced the closure of Madrassas and Sanskrit tols (centres of learning) that are being run on government funds and convert them into regular schools.

Stating that it is not the business of a secular government to run religious educational institutions, Sarma added if government funds are to be used for imparting religious education then Sanskrit tols must teach the Bhagavad Gita.

He added that there were 1200 Madrassas in Assam. However, there was no independent board to run them. He also said that problems were cropping up as these religious schools were handing out degrees equivalent to Secondary and Higher Secondary.

While private Madrassas and tols will be permitted to function, a new law will be brought to regulate them and ensure that they work within the ambit of the law. A deadline of three to four months has been set to ensure the conversion of Madrassas into high and higher secondary schools.

The announcement was made by the minister while during a cut motion where he stated that since the Assam government had decided to promote only secular and modern education, the government will not patronize religious institutions and therefore there was no question of any Madrassa being provincialized. He also added that no new Arabic teachers would be appointed.

Sarma also said that Sanskrit tols will henceforth function in a new form under the Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University. A new curriculum will be designed by the university.

The decision to set up 150 new high schools in the state was taken in February this year and accordingly construction is set to begin on 2nd October. Classes in these will commence in April next year. Additionally, fifteen government colleges including nine for girls are also being set up in the state.

It is high time Muslim youth are mainstreamed to deradicalize them and ensure that Madrassas that indulge in religious indoctrination are shut for good. The “Quran in one hand and computer in the other” policy is simply giving a long rope to Islamists as is evident from both recent and past events.

Most terrorist attacks have a so-called ‘educated’ brain behind it. Education hardly seems to make any difference when it comes to the Islamist Jihadi mindset as is evident from the recent arrest by the NIA (National Investigation Agency) of an ophthalmologist from Bengaluru working for the Islamic State.

We might as well take a leaf from our neighbor Sri Lanka when it comes to dealing with Islamic radicalization. Recognizing the root cause of the problem, Sri Lanka has begun regulating Madrassas.

Not only are they being compulsorily registered with the Muslim Religious Affairs Department but their syllabus is also being re-evaluated and updated. The veto power now lies with the government which will help them rein in the troublesome elements.

While the Assam government’s move is welcome, it falls well short as private Madrassas are being given leeway. Treating the symptoms without attacking the root cause is like medicating for a cold while the patient is suffering from sinus.

We have to recognize and accept the fact that Madrassas besides indoctrinating impressionable young minds, also act as warehouses for terror equipment including bombs. Hopefully, other state governments will follow in the footsteps of our north-eastern state and place the safety and security of Bharat and its citizens above appeasement and vote-bank politics.

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