No Politics in the Madrassa Conversions

Wednesday, 03 March 2021


No Politics in the Madrassa Conversions

Swapnil Bharali | January 02, 2021 23:53 hrs

The final decision has been taken by the Assam government and all the necessary procedures required to convert the Madrassas into regular government schools through the legislative processes of the state assembly has been done and dusted. 

Come 1st April, 2021, Madrassas will be a thing of the past in Assam whereby there will be no government funding for dispensation of religious or theological education. 

While this may seem like a well thought out political strategy by the ruling saffron brigade – the BJP - which has strong leanings towards the Hindutva philosophy, a rational look at the move would speak otherwise. Madrassas have supposedly been the dominant centres of learning in the Muslim dominated districts of Assam. In Assam and West Bengal, these have had more of a traditional bearing from the British legacy rather than any Constitutional sanction of modern India. 

The Constitution of India explicitly states that there will be no state funding for religious teaching – be it in Hinduism, Islam or any other religion. Despite this, the Madrassas in Assam continued to function under the previous regimes which mainly did not want to disturb their vote banks by touching the subject. Or maybe it never occurred to the previous regimes that the Madrassas and the education dispensed therein were both in urgent need of reforms, rectification and improvement.

Written records state that the quality of modern education in the Madrassas had huge room for improvement. Students enrolled in these schools themselves felt the need to learn things that would make them professionally qualified. They wanted to be doctors, engineers, teachers etc after having learned subjects like Mathematics, Science and all else that went into modern education. This is where the Madrassas failed. There was no quality education and yet no one touched or spoke about reforming or improving them simply because it was a touchy topic that had religious connotations.

But the Madrassa system badly required reforms and improvement and like other matters that are equally touchy (the Triple Talaq for example), it was only the BJP government which could do it. This is because the BJP, as a political party seeking votes to remain in power, can never hope for those Muslim votes that constitute the vote bank of the so-called “secular” parties like the Congress or the AIUDF. And so, closing the Madrassas or converting them into regular government schools would in no way affect the political fortunes of the BJP and any blind opposition to the move is purely due to the political compulsions of whoever has them. Basically, it is opposition for the sake of opposing. In this instance of stopping government funding of the Madrassas and converting them to regular and better government schools, there is just no selfishness or motive involved except to bring in the required reforms that have been so desperately required for long. This is a solid instance of a government doing a great job in ensuring that it is only modern education that would eventually churn out employable professionals that would be made available for students and such education would come free of cost for all sections of the society and more so for the progressive Muslim society who seek a life of peace and dignity.

Moreover, what the government has ensured is the continuation of the Arabic and Urdu languages that were taught in the Madrassas. The utility of these languages in the Arab countries cannot be undermined and knowing that one extra language is always an added qualification when it comes to the employability of a person. For example, an Assamese with the requisite qualifications for a job in say, Dubai would only be at a huge advantage should he be able to converse in Arabic upon landing there. If the government has kept that bit of education intact, then it has done a world of good to the future of students who would get enrolled into these Madrassa-turned-government schools from April 1, 2021.

In this land of Srimanta Sankaradeva and Azan Fakir, social and communal harmony of Assam had its own lofty place and proud examples were given to the rest of the country. Religious teachings in closed Madrassas were essentially divisive in nature and none of these are required any more. The path of development and growth is the order of the day and this is where the BJP government has succeeded is showing a ray of hope for the state. Abolition of the Madrassas and Sanskrit Tols would eventually be scripted in golden letters in the history of Assam and the best part is that there is nothing political about it. It is purely social improvement.

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