ASSAM MADRASSA REORGANIZATION BILL - AN ANALYSIS

Introduction


The Assam Madrassa reorganization bill refers to the act of the Government of Assam to convert all state run madrassas in the state to regular schools . The bill albeit controversial aims to regularise all state run madrassas into regular schools and also abolish the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization) Act, 1995 and the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018[1].Assam as we know has a long history denoting back from the age of the great epics the Mahabharatas and the Ramayana wherein the land east of the Karatoya River and on the banks of the Brahmaputra was known as Kamrupa with its capital being the city of Pragjyotishpura present day Guwahati . Kamrupa was one of the most important ancient states in India and its mention can be found even in the writings of Hieun Tsang in the 7th century ad . He described the entire land east of River Karatoya as Kamrupa he described the capital Pragjyotishpura as one of the largest cities in the Indian Subcontinent measuring 5 miles in area . He further mentioned that the province was prosperous and was home to large and fertile rural area he also wrote that the eastern periphery of the province shared a border with China and the border was approximately 2 months walk from the capital . He however described the border as a wild land having large herds of elephants and other animals . He also described the people living on the border areas as barbarians and the terrain harsh and impenetrable . Thus probably the Kamrupa Empire extended upto modern day Kachin Province of Myanmar which shares a border with China and is connected to India through the Pangsau Pass[2].


However most of what we see as present day Assam was the land ruled by the Ahoms ,Koch and previously the Chutia Kingdom in the 9th century . The Ahoms were mainly Tai people who had come in from the Shan province of Burma and the Yunan Province of China . The Ahom Kingdom was established by the King Sukhaapa in the 12th century AD in Upper Brahmaputra Valley modern day Upper Assam . Subsequently the Kingdom became saffronised under the influence of the prevailing Koch , Chutia and Mishmi people . This kingdom expanded in the 16th century under the rule of Suhungmung who is regarded as the greatest Ahom King . Under his rule the Mughal Army was defeated 6 times at the height of Mughal Power with the most famous being the Battle of Saraighat in 1671. Here also we see that the history of Islam in Assam can be traced back to the first Islamic invasions which had started from the early part of the 13th century and continued till the 14th, resulted in a sizeable section of Muslims staying behind in Assam after the failure of their expeditions. This segment finally assimilated with the emerging Assamese nationality as Asamiya Mussalmans. The Ahom rulers gave them significant positions of power and eminence to the Assamese Muslims and the latter took active part in resisting successive Mughal attempts to overrun the region. The assimilation of this segment of Muslims into Assamese society was so complete that the historians who accompanied the Mughal expeditions into Assam noted that they were more Assamese than Muslim. Thus, the demographic break-up of the Assamese society on the eve of British entry into the province may be said to have included the different ethnic groups brought within the Hindu fold, the caste Hindus, the plains tribal communities and the relatively small number of Assamese Muslims [3].

With the advent of the British Rule it is noticed that more Muslims had migrated from Bangladesh as sharecroppers to plant crops in the Char areas of Assam especially in the Goalpara region of the state this large scale migration resulted in the formation of a Muslim League government in the state this government further fuelled these large scale Muslim influx into the state it was also during this time that Madrassas in the state were provincialized under the premiership of the then PM of Assam Sir Mohhamad Saadulaah .


MADRASSA REORGANIZATION BILL - LEGAL ANALYSIS

The madrassa reorganization bill as we know aims to convert all state run madrassas in the state into general centers of learning like other normal schools in the state . According to the new bill, all theological courses in Arabic taught in government-aided madrasas will be discontinued from April 2020.[4]The new act seeks to disqualify the previous acts such as the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization) Act, 1995 and the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.Assam currently has two kinds of state-run madrasas —189 High Madrasa and Madrasa Higher Secondary Schools run under the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) and the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC); and 542 Pre-Senior, Senior and Title Madrasa and Arabic College run by the State Madrasa Education Board.[5] Thus the theological courses which include the teaching of Qiyas , Ijamas and Sharia will be discontinued and only general subjects will be taught .

The Government of Assam through this bill will also dissolve the State Madrassa Education Board after results of the examination for academic year 2021-22 is announced and all records, bank accounts and staff shall be transferred to the SEBA[6]. The High and Higher Secondary Madrasas run by SEBA will have ‘madrasa’ dropped from their names and function as regular schools. The staff of the madrasas, especially those teachers teaching religious subjects, will be retained — either trained to teach other subjects or in some other capacity[7]. Thus also the livelihood of the Madrassa Teachers will also be protected and there employment will not be affected . It is also a highly progresdsive measure and follows the concept of secularism in the Indian Constitution as it seeks to make religious teaching separate from general teaching and also aims to improve the socio economic conditions of Muslims who are among the most backward groups in the country as even seen in the Sachar Committee Report .

Herein the bill also stated that the 97 existing provincialised Sanskrit tolls will be converted to “study centres, research centres and institutions to study the Certificate/ Diploma/ Degree courses to be started by Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University, Nalbari with effect from 1/4/2022”. There will not be any fresh admission in the provincialised Sanskrit tolls from April 1, 2021.Hence we see that the bill followed the essence of Indian Secularism and was not biased towards any religions.

CONCLUSION

The act is an landmark legislation and has to be counted as one of the most important and progressive legislations passed in the recent times in Assam or for that matter in any major states of the country . The bill as we see aims to strengthen the concept of secularism in the country . However the timing of the bill just before the Assam Legislative Assembly Election in 2021 raises a suspicion of doubt as pointed out by the opposition parties AIUDF and the INC who mainly depend on the Bengali Muslim votes have raised. The opposition parties have alleged that the entire motive of the Bill is to polarize the election and divide the electorate before the elections on religious lines .

However on a close introspection of the Bill we see that unlike bills passed by the BJP governments in other state on issues like Love Jihad or Cow Protection this bill is an progressive aimed at reducing the backwardness of the Muslim Community and bring them into the mainstream educational system of the country . Thus the grounds that the main aim of the Bill is aimed at bringing religious division in the society is pretty unfounded considering the contents of the bill .


References

[1] Gohain, Hiren. “Once More on the Assam Movement.” Social Scientist, vol. 10, no. 11, 1982, pp. 58–62. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3516861. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020. [2] Gohain, Hiren. “Once More on the Assam Movement.” Social Scientist, vol. 10, no. 11, 1982, pp. 58–62. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3516861. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020. [3] Udayon Misra. (1999). Immigration and Identity Transformation in Assam. Economic and Political Weekly, 34(21), 1264-1271. Retrieved February 7, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4407987 [4] Karishma Hasnat .All about Assam’s new bill that will convert govt-aided madrasas to regular schools ,Print (Feb.18,2021,12.10pm ) https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/all-about-assams-new-bill-that-will-convert-govt-aided-madrasas-to-regular-schools/577642/ [5]Abhishek Saha ,Assam passes Bill to turn madrasas into regular schools , The Indian Express (Feb.18, 2021,12.00 pm ) https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/assam-passes-bill-to-turn-madrasas-into-regular-schools-7126938/ [6] Supra [7] Supra


Author - Rahul Purkayastha, School of Law , Christ University , Bangalore.

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