A bill abolishing state-run madrassas was passed in the Assam Legislative Assembly on Wednesday amid protest by the Opposition legislators, who walked out after their demand to send the legislation to the Select Committee for “proper discussion” was rejected.
The bill, which will now to be sent to the governor for his approval, scraps government funding for madrassas, and they will be converted to general schools by April 1, 2021.
Under the bill, the State Madrassa Education Board, Assam, will also be disbanded, but it will have no bearing on status of allowances and service conditions of the teaching and non-teaching staff.
Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami placed the bill for voice vote, which was cleared with backing from BJP's alliance partners - the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland People's Front (BPF).
State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated the government would soon introduce another bill to regulate private madrassas as well.
“We are in the process of drafting a bill whereby Qawmi (private) madrassas will have to be registered with the state government and they will be given registration if and only if they teach science, maths etc along with religious education,” he said.
However, Wednesday's bill did not cover, or even mention Sanskrit tols (centres of Vedic education), which Mr Sarma had earlier said would also be shut as the government cannot fund religious education because it is a “secular entity”.
“The Assam government says public money can't be spent on religious education, but several universities impart Vedic education, Islamic teachings. So, it looks like an election agenda. What Yogi (Adityanath) did not do in UP, BJP has done in Assam. We will now help people who want to go against this in the court,” AIUDF legislator Rafikul Islam said.
We will now help people who want to go against this in the court, he added.
"They are free to go to court. We are ready to face them,” he said sharpening his attack on Congress and the AIUDF.
He said the government's decision was based on responses from a survey of madrassa students which indicated they want "general education”.
“We are with the progressive Islamic society. Congress wanted to reform the Qawmi madrassas through Right to Education Act, but couldn't due to vote bank politics,” Mr Sarma said.