Assam madrassas sulk as govt knocks off Friday holidays calling it 'unofficial'

New Delhi: BJP-led Assam government's recent decision to keep the state-run madrassas open on Fridays has created ripples as it is seen as a move to restrain the religious freedom of the Muslims by many.

The decision that is likely to have a long-lasting effect comes at a time when the saffron party is raring to hold the reins of power in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming assembly election.

 Assam madrassas sulk as govt knocks off Friday holidays calling it unofficial

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Image: Sarma's Facebook page

Though the education department of Assam has repeatedly said this move as an attempt to bring in uniformity in the weekly holiday pattern followed by the schools, many view it as a move targeted at the madrassas.

Ramesh Chandra Jain, a top official in the education department of Assam told Firstpost, "We are planning to notify very soon that weekly holiday, in schools under the government will not be allowed on Fridays. It is not specifically targeted at the Madarsas."

But critics say that since only madrassas and schools in the Muslim-dominated areas of the state remain closed on Friday for mass prayer, the notification may affect only such educational institutes.

Abdul Qayyum Alam, former director of Madarsa board of Assam said, "I have no objection about what the government wants to do about the weekly holiday in madrassas. But as per rule madrassas are provincialised as institutions for religious education, and they are governed by separate laws."

He further says that, as per law, educational institutions provincialised under Madrasa Board of Assam as senior madrassas, title madrassas and Arabic colleges can follow the norm of remaining closed on Fridays.

"This law has been followed since the year 1955 and was brought into force to facilitate not only prayer but also to provide the madrassa students the opportunity to learn conduction of mass prayer," he said.

The former official said that these madrassas remain open on Sundays conforming to the norm of one weekly holiday followed by any other school.

There are also views that partially support this move.

Maulana Fazlul Karim, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s Assam chapter said, "The institutions known as high madrassas which have no separate laws for holidays can definitely follow this instruction."

But Karim also said that institutions provincialised under the Madrasa Board have separate rules.

"Madrassas in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab also follow this norm of remaining closed on Fridays. So why a separate law is needed for Assam?" he asked.

In the meantime, the Assam Madrasa Co-Ordination Committee has submitted a memorandum to state Education Himanta Biswa Sarma requesting to roll back the decision, which it says he rejected right away.

The Education Minister came up with a tweet after the meeting which read, “Met Madarsa teachers to inform that government’s decision on keeping educational institutional institutes open on Friday is non-negotiable. Willing to discuss all other issues.”

Interestingly the Jamiat-Ulema-E Hind does not show much support to the Madrasas aggrieved by this decision.

Mehmood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind told Firstpost, "We have been taking a stand against registering of Madrasas under the government in the name of modernization of Islamic education. But some madrassas did not pay heed to our appeal and now are suffering because of that. For taking aid and grant from government eventually leads to this. We have no problem with what they are facing on account of a decision taken at their own discretion."

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Updated Date: Dec 08, 2016 22:48:57 IST