The Assam government on Monday announced to discontinue the weekly holiday on Friday in some of state-run high Madrassas.
Announcing the decision, Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that government-run Madrassas will only have an hour's break for the 'jumma namaz' (Friday prayers) instead of a day's holiday.
"Many government-run Madrassas, especially in Lakhimpur, Nagaon and Morigaon districts, have been observing holidays on Fridays," Sarma said.
"This is not officially recognized, nor is it a government-scheduled holiday. We won't allow the closure of madrassas on Fridays. We will make provisions for an hour's break for the Friday prayer," Sarma added.
The lack of 'official sanction', he said, was the reason behind the move.
Sarma further said that the state Education Department has already issued instruction to those Madrassas to function like other schools on Friday.
The Minister said it came to his notice only recently that some Madrassas observe weekly holiday on Friday.
"It was recently that during a meeting with education officers, I found this strange thing that the government-run high Madrassas in three districts, including Lakhimpur, Naogaon and Morigaon, observe holiday on Friday," the Minister said.
"We know that official weekly holiday in Pakistan and Bangladesh is on Friday, while in India, the United States and Europe, Sunday is the weekly holiday," he said, adding that there cannot be two rules for holiday.
"I know that the government allows one or one-and-half-hour break to people, who believe in Islam, to offer Namaz on Friday. But there is no holiday on Friday as such. Even when the assembly is in session, we follow the same practice," he said.
The Education Department has already instructed that the practice will be discontinued and there will holiday on Sunday and not Friday. The erring headmasters of those Madrassas will be suspended, it warned.
Former minister and Congress leader Siddique Ahmed, however, slammed Sarma over the decision and said that the minister wants to say that Muslims are second class citizens in Assam.
"Sarma is saying that Assam is not Pakistan or Bangladesh, meaning Muslims are second class citizens in Assam. The Muslim community will boycott Sarma," Ahmed said.
"He (Sarma) is trying to divide the people of the state on religious lines and pitting one community against the other," Ahmed added.