The Assam government on Monday tabled a Bill in the Assembly to convert all state-run madrassas into regular schools amid objections by a united Opposition.
Introducing the Bill in the three-day session of the Assembly, which began on Monday, senior state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said it proposes to abolish two existing laws: Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995, and Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.
At present, Assam has two kinds of state-run madrasas: 189 high madrasa and madrasa higher secondary schools run under the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) and the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC); and 542 pre-senior, senior and title madrasa and arabic colleges run by the State Madrasa Education Board.
Sarma said in the Assembly, “Madrasa education has been going on since pre-Independence era… What if someone goes to court today and asks if government is spending Rs 600 crore for teaching the Quran, why is it not spending the same in teaching the Bible…(or) the Bhagwad Gita?”
He said the proposed law will in no way attempt to stop spiritual education of any religion, and that no one can go outside the purview of the Constitution and stop minority educational institutions. “What we can do is modernise those education institutions,” he said, clarifying that the Bill is not meant to regulate education imparted by private institutions.
The minister said madrassas teach preliminary course of the Holy Quran and Arabic education, and added that even as madrassas are converted to regular schools, education of Arabic language will continue. “That means we are only abolishing the education of the Quran,” he said.
Legislators of AIUDF, the party led by MP and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, staged a walkout, alleging that the state government was trying to taking political mileage by the move focussing on the word ‘madrassa’ and polarising voters ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that an official note on points approved by the Assam Cabinet earlier this month showed that the government decided to dissolve State Madrassa Education Board after results of the examination of 2021-22 academic year are announced. Thereafter, all records, bank accounts and staff will be transferred to SEBA.
These institutions will admit students from April next year against “relevant courses of SCERT, SEBA and AHSEC as applicable for their institutions”. From pre-senior, senior and title madrasas and arabic colleges, subjects such as the Holy Quran, Islamic Studies, Fiqh, Hadith, Usul Al Fiqh, Tafsir, Hadith and Fariad will be removed, even as Arabic will continue to be taught as a language.
The staff will continue to get salaries and allowances, although the account head will change from ‘Madrasa education’ to ‘Secondary education’.
On Sanskrit tolls, the note had stated that the 97 existing provincialised tolls will be converted to “Study Centres, research Centres and Institutions to study the Certificate/ Diploma/ Degree courses to be started by Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University, Nalbari with effect from 1/4/2022.”
“There will not be any fresh admission in the provincialised Sanskrit tolls from 1/4/2021. Students have to take admission in high schools,” it had said.