AS far as good news goes, the new BJP government in Assam couldn’t have had it any better: a Muslim student from a school run by Vidya Bharati, a Sangh Parivar institution, has topped the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examination.
In the results declared Tuesday, Sarfaraz Hussain topped the Class X exams by securing 590 marks out of 600. The 16-year-old was a student of the Shankardev Shishu Niketan in Betkuchi, on the southern fringe of Guwahati, run by Shishu Shikshya Samiti, Assam, which is affiliated to Vidya Bharati. “I am proud to have been a student of this school. It is because of the school that I have been able to secure the top position in the state,” he said.
Sarfaraz, who wants to become an engineer, has also won several awards in Sanskrit essay-writing and debate competitions, apart from topping the all-Guwahati Gita recitation contest two years ago. “I had no problem chanting prayers in Sanskrit, including the gayatri mantra,” said Sarfaraz, adding that he had always scored 100/100 in Sanskrit till Class VIII.
Out of the over 3.8 lakh students who appeared for the Class X exams this time in Assam, 2.39 lakh secured pass marks, including 54,197 in first division, 96,568 in second and 88,849 in third.
Sarfaraz’s father Azmal Hussain said he saw nothing wrong in enrolling his son in the institution because he wanted his children to get “quality education”.
“Many people are asking about my son attending a school run by the Sangh Parivar. What is the problem? Our first identity is Assamese. Moreover, my daughter had graduated from the same school three years ago. When I first took them there, the headmaster asked me if I was sure about this step. He said they would have to chant various slokas, including the gayatri mantra and saraswati vandana. I agreed, because I was more interested in quality education that shapes character,” said Hussain, who works in a Guwahati hotel.
Besides, Hussain said, he hailed from Patharughat in Darrang district, where Hindu and Muslim farmers had joined hands to rise in revolt against the British in 1894.
”When our forefathers could lay down their lives alongside our Hindu neighbours fighting the British, I don’t see any reason why my children should not attend this school. Aren’t children of families belonging to various faiths going to schools run by Christian missionaries?” asked Hussain.
According to Nirmal Baruah, who heads the Shishu Shikshya Samiti in Assam, Sarfaraz “is not the first Muslim student from our schools to have got a top position in the HSLC exams”.
“A few years ago, another student from Barpeta found a place among the top 20. Our schools have Christian students and Muslim teachers, too,” said Baruah, who is a professor at Assam Agricultural University.
The Samiti has 231 schools in Assam, and 39 students from these schools have figured among the 232 students who have shared the top-20 ranks, said Baruah.
Felicitating the topper, Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the Samiti should set up at least one Shankardev Shishu Niketan in every gram panchayat in the state. ”It is very important to imbibe Indian values among students from the beginning, and setting up one such school in every gram panchayat will immensely contribute towards better grooming of young minds,” said Sarma.
As for Sarfaraz, the next step is clear: join Cotton College in Guwahati, one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the northeast.