Various Muslim outfits and madrasa teachers’s organisations in Assam have objected to state Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s warning against madrasas remaining closed on Fridays, instead of Sunday. “If the government wants to bring a law to shift the weekly-off to Sundays, then it should be done through normal process. But an education minister saying that he had only recently discovered that madrasas remain shut on Fridays is surprising,” said Amirul Islam, general secretary, All Asam Madrasa Teachers’ Association, noting that madrasas have remained closed on Fridays since the time of British, and the state Madrasa Board has a resolution to this effect, dating back to 1934.
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At a press conference on Monday, the BJP minister had threatened madrasa heads of action if they continued to observe weekly-off on Fridays, saying “madrasas remain closed on Fridays in Pakistan and Bangladesh, not in India”. Nekibur Zaman, chairman of the state Waqf Board, said the education minister should first regulate the mushrooming growth of madrasas across Assam. “Though about 700 madrasas are affiliated to the state Madrasa Education Board, the reality is that there are several hundred more madrasas across the state, of which the government has no information at all. There have been instances of terrorist groups using some such unregistered madrasas in recent times. The government should first streamline the establishment of madrasas,” Zaman said.
Mokhlisur Rahman, president of the All Assam Madrasa TET-qualified Teachers’ Association, said that the rights of the minorities, including the Muslims, have been guaranteed and protected by Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution. “The education minister is either not aware of this, or is trying to create an unwarranted situation. Moreover, while madrasas remain closed on Fridays, they also remain closed for Saraswati puja, Durga puja, Holi, Diwali, Christmas, Guru Naka Jayanti and other such festivals,” Rahman added. Congress MLA Abdul Khalek condemned the minister’s remark, saying: “Sarma has hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims of Assam by referring to Pakistan and Bangladesh…He should find out what Murli Manohar Joshi ( HRD minister in the Vajpayee government) had done for modernisation of madrasa education in the country.”