The Assam Assembly has passed a Bill paves the way to convert all the government-funded Madrassas into general schools. The bill was cleared amidst a walkout by the opposition.
The opposition slammed the government's move to close the Madrassas, which impart education on theology along with general subjects, and alleged polarisation tactics in the state, which will have Assembly polls in March-April next year. After the Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma turned down the request of the Congress and AIUDF to send The Assam Repealing Bill, 2020 to the select committee to have "proper discussion" and also rejected the amendments, the Speaker placed the bill for voice vote.
From April 1 next year, over 600 state-run Madrassas will be converted into upper primary, high and higher secondary schools with no change of status, pay, allowances and service conditions of the teaching and non-teaching staff.
Amidst a noisy scene, the bill was passed with majority as all the alliance members of the BJP -- Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People's Front (BPF) -- supported the government move. The approved bill proposes to abolish the two existing acts -- The Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995 and The Assam Madrassa Education Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.
Stating that the said format of school education operates only in Assam and West Bengal, Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government cannot support teaching of a particular religion in a secular country like India.
"I feel this is going to be a gift to the minority community. The students studying in those Madrassas will hail the decision after 10 years," Sarma said.
He said that it is wrong to say that the government is doing this against the Muslim society.
"Opposing Islamic fundamentalism is not opposing the religion Islam. Our government has done lot of things to uplift the minority community," he said while citing some examples of schemes.
The NEDA convenor further said that he does not need votes in minority areas for the next 20 years and he has no compulsion unlike the period when he was in the Congress. "But, still I will say that I don't need a system where girls will have six kids at 16 years of age," he commented.
In April 2018, Sarma had brought many private Madrassas under the government ambit by introducing The Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018. On December 13 this year, the Assam Cabinet had approved a proposal to close down all Madrassas and Sanskrit Tols (schools) in order to conform the state government's education policy to "secularism sentiments".
However, The Assam Repealing Bill, 2020 did not contain anything related to the Sanskrit tols and the Education Minister also did not mention anything about the same.