Guwahati: The opposition Congress and other organisations including those from the Muslim community on Thursday lashed out against Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's statement that the state-run madrasas and Sanskrit tols (centres of learning) would be closed down.
State Congress chief Ripun Bora dismissed Biswa Sarma's views as "personal", but warned that if the government took any decision officially, his party would oppose it in the court of law.
"This is totally undemocratic, unconstitutional. It is Biswa Sarma's personal view, because the cabinet has not taken any decision. He has deliberately made the remarks to create confusion, and divert the attention of the people from the real issues," Bora told IANS.
Sarma on Wednesday said the state-run madrasas and Sanskrit tols would be wound up within the next three to four months and the teachers would get their salaries sitting at home till they reach the age of retirement. He said there were 1,200 madrasas and 200 Sanskrit tols run by the state government, and they would be converted into high and higher secondary schools and give lessons on regular courses.
"It is not the government's obligation to provide funds to institutions to teach religious courses, Arabic or any such language."
The minister, however, said the government has no problem with the private madrasas and Sanskrit tols which can be there, but "we will ensure they operate within a regulatory framekwork by introducing a new law".
"If someone is teaching religion using his or her own money then there is no problem, but if Holy Quran is taught using state funds, then we have to teach Gita and Bible as well. The state government is a secular entity. It cannot fund organisations involved in religious teaching," he said.
Bora said in a secular and democratic country, one cannot talk in such manner.
"As far as madrasas and Sanskrit tols are concerned, it is not a fact that only religious education is imparted there.
"The madrasas are under the Secondary Board of Education Assam (SEBA). They teach the course prescribed by SEBA. The students there learn science, mathematics, education, as also computer. Only Arabic is taught as a subject. What is the harm if pupil learn Arabic?" he asked.
Similarly, Sanskrit is the original Indian language, and the entire soul, culture and civilisation of India came from Sanskrit, Bora said.
"We condemn his remarks. If the government takes this decision officially, then Congress will oppose it in the court of law because Article 28 and 30 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that there is no bar in teaching any language," he added.
The Assam State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an organisation of Islamic scholars, has also threatened to take legal action.
Maulana Fazlul Karim, state secretary of the Jamiat, argued that by learning Arabic as a foreign language, many students grow up to become doctors and engineers and get jobs in the Middle East countries.