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Assam Muslim bodies defy order to keep madrassas open on Fridays, govt not amused

Author: Kangkan Acharyya
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: December 13, 2016
URL:   http://m.firstpost.com/india/assam-muslim-bodies-defy-order-to-keep-madrassas-open-on-fridays-govt-not-amused-3154706.html

The recent notification issued by the Assam government to keep all schools open on Fridays has resulted in a stand-off between the education department and Islamic organisations of the region.

The stand-off has provided the Congress with an opportunity which has been seen trying its best to flare the issue up by infusing secular versus communal debate.

A meeting held among Islamic leaders at Badarpur in Assam last Sunday, decided to defy the order that they perceive as infringing upon the rights of Muslims. The meeting decided to keep madrassas closed on Fridays and open on Sundays in contravention to the government order on the weekly holiday of schools.

The government of Assam in an order issued last week said that all schools under the state government are to remain open on Fridays and closed on Sundays in a bid to bring in uniformity in the weekly holiday system in all the schools under the government.

The order on holidays did not go down well with the Islamic organisations as madrassas have been following the tradition of remaining closed on Fridays to perform mass prayers.

Ataur Rahman Majharbhuyan, secretary of North East India Naduwa Tu Tamir, an Islamic organisation of the region told Firstpost that the meeting decided that madrassa students will not attend classes on Fridays and will sit in classes on Sundays.

"Even if the government opens the madrassas on Fridays no student will attend classes. If no madrassa teacher  turns up on Sundays given the government order to remain closed on Sundays, the senior students of madrassas will teach the junior ones and will continue the classes defying the order," he said.

In the sidelines of the meeting, some students of a madrassa in Badarpur on Sunday flung open the doors of Deorail Title Madrassa marking the beginning of the movement.

Siddek Ahmed, former Congress minister, who was also present at the meeting threatened to take the issue to the high court if the government of Assam did not roll back its decision.

"In the last six months of BJP rule in Assam, we have noticed that Muslims have been denied the right to do business and get appointed in government jobs turning them into second class citizens of the country," he said without stating any empirical evidence as to which jobs and businesses have Muslims been denied and how.

Ahmed further added, "Now trampling upon the right to religious education of the Muslims the government has issued the weird notification to keep madrassas open on Fridays."

Maulana Fazlul Karim, general secretary of Jamiyat Ulema E Hind said that the BJP-led Assam government has issued this blanket order in violation of existing rule which says that madrassas will remain closed on Fridays.

"The order is passed to appear anti-Muslim. Madrassas remain closed on Fridays even in Gujarat, the home state of the Prime Minister, let alone Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab,” he said.

"Like madrassas even Sanskrit schools have a different rule for weekly holidays. Why the government is not compelling the Sanskrit schools to follow the same notification?” Karim asked.

Pranab Goswami, principal of a Sanskrit School in Assam informed told Firstpost that Sanskrit Schools do not follow the rule of having weekly holidays like other schools.

"We have holidays on every eighth day after full moon and new moon and next day after full moon and new moon. That way we have two holidays every fourth week,” he informed when asked about the holiday system followed by Sanskrit schools.

But the resistance from the Islamic organisations did not go down well with the government that is keen to implement the order.

Ramesh Chandra Jain, secretary to the department of education in Assam said, "We have ordered the madrassa teachers that it will be difficult for them if they do not follow the order. So they have to fall in line."

When asked since Sanskrit schools have different rules for weekly holidays whether the new order is applicable to them also he said, "The rule is applicable to all schools. But Sanskrit schools do not  remain closed on Fridays."

The stand-off between the weekly holiday of  madrassas is likely to make an impact on the Uttar Pradesh assembly election.

Haider Hussain Bora, secretary, All India United Democratic Front said, "The question is not about politicising the issue, but about the rights of our fellow citizens to practice their religion."

He further questioned, "We are asking when Himanta Biswa Sarma was the education minister in the Congress regime he did not find any flaw about the weekly holiday system of madrassas. He found fault only after joining BJP. Does not this very fact signify that there is an intention to create differences in communal lines behind the order?"
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