NEW DELHI, Jan 01 (Arab News): A law that will close 600 Islamic schools in India's northeastern state of Assam has caused an outcry, with critics saying authorities are trying to polarize society and create religious tension ahead of regional elections in March.
Under the new law, enacted by an administration dominated by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and passed on Wednesday, state-run madrasas will be converted into regular schools.
"The government is gradually making the Muslims of the state helpless by interfering with our ways of life," Isfaqul Hussain, an activist based in Tezpur, Assam, told Arab News on Thursday. "The BJP government is trying to push the Muslim community to the corner just to polarize society and win the trust of the non-Muslim community just before the elections."
In Assam, 30 per cent of the 30 million population is Muslim. Assam's education minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said the move was aimed at taking the Muslim community "forward" and defended the new law.
"After 10 years, the Muslim children who become doctors and engineers from these schools, they will be indebted to our government," he said.
Outcry in northeast India as government shuts 600 Islamic schools.
Mohammad Fakaruddin Ahmad teaches at Noorpur Jut Senior School, a madrasa in Sonitpur district. He disagreed with the minister's assertion.
"Our madrasas, like other schools, teach science and maths and other subjects and produce doctors and engineers too. Madrasas follow the education curriculum of the state government and we teach secular education to our students, besides having a course in Arabic and Islamic studies."
Hiren Gohain, a prominent public intellectual from Assam, felt the government was worried about the name "madrasa" rather than education. "Political motive is the uppermost in their mind," he told Arab News. "The worry is that next time they would start changing the names of places having Islamic names." He said it was "part of the pattern" to undermine Muslim minorities in Assam and coerce them to fall into the ruling party's "political construct."
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