The Assam government has decided to shut down all state-run madrassas and Sanskrit tols in the state, and convert them into regular schools within a period of six months.
Justifying the move, Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said it was "not the job of a secular government" to teach religion, scriptures and languages such as Arabic to children. While the BJP-led government in Assam had disbanded madrassas as well as the Sanskrit Tol Board and merged it with the Secondary Board of Education Assam in 2017, it now plans to shut them down completely.
"We have about 1,200 madrassas and 200 Sanskrit tols in Assam without any independent boards to run them. A lot of problems have cropped up because these people get a certificate equivalent to matriculation or high secondary school. That is why the state government has decided to convert all madrassas and Sanskrit tols into regular schools," Mr Sarma told NDTV.
The government has also decided to bring strict regulations to govern the nearly 2,000 private madrassas in the state. "As the state government is a secular entity, it cannot fund organisations involved in religious teaching. Private madrassas and Sanskrit tols can continue to run, but we will soon bring a new law to ensure they function in accordance with a regulatory framework," the Minister said.
He said the move was intended to ensure that the children do not lose out on proper education because of decisions taken by their parents. "As the students going to these places are under 14, it is often their parents who decide where they should be admitted. We don't want any student to be deprived of general education due to overindulgence in religious learning. We will bring a regulation requiring madrassas to make certain mandatory disclosures and impart compulsory general education along with religious teachings," Mr Sarma said.