This Article is From Dec 03, 2016

Assam Cancels Friday Holidays For Madrassas, Faces Protests

Assam Education Minister claims the clampdown on madrassas is not discriminatory.

Guwahati: Muhammad Ali Akom, 55, has taught at one of Assam's oldest state-run madrassas for 32 years. But today he is upset with the state government for scrapping the weekly Friday holiday reserved for prayers or Namaz - a norm since the British Raj.

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said those who wish to perform the prayers may take an hour off, but not the whole day.

Mr Akom, the principal of the Gomaphul Bari Senior Madrassa at Barpeta, said, "We have to read Jumma Namaz on Friday that's why in those days the rules were made this way."

He is not alone. Many of the 4,000 members of the All Assam Madrassa Teachers Association, which had supported the BJP in the recently-held by-polls, have expressed concern.

"We supported the BJP because it is in power and madrassas have lot of unresolved issue so we thought they will do it. But if it steps into religion, then it becomes difficult," said Abdullah Khan , another teacher at Gomaphul Bari Senior Madrassa.

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claims the clampdown on madrassas is not discriminatory. "In some parts of Assam, educational institutes are shut down on Fridays without any authorisation. We have told them that they cannot do this. Friday is a working day in rest of the country thus it has to be that way," Mr Sarma to NDTV.

Mr Sarma has called for a crucial meeting with the Madrassa teachers on December 6.

But the opposition Congress has blamed the BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, a Hindu volunteer organisation, for the rule change.

"This is RSS way of meddling in affairs of the Muslim community. Pressure must have been built upon Dr Sarma to do this. Since he is a new entrant into BJP, he has to cater," Bobeeta Sharma,  Assam Congress spokesperson said.

The powerful Muslim students body - All Assam Minority Students' Union or AAMSU meanwhile has launched a state-wide protest against the decision.

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against Mr Sarma's decision.