My mother’s views won’t make govt. rethink move on Sanskrit tols, says Assam Minister

Kusum Tewari

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said his mother’s unhappiness would not make the government reconsider its decision to shut down Sanskrit tols, along with madrasas.

Mr. Sarma on February 12 announced that government-aided madrasas, Islamic theological schools and tols or ashrams teaching Sanskrit and religious scriptures would be shut. He had said these centres would be converted into proper schools as it was “not the duty of the government to teach religion”.

The decision received criticism, the sharpest being from his author-mother Mrinalini Devi who was in January elected vice-president of Assam Sahitya Sabha, the State’s apex literary body. She will take charge in April.

“I studied Sanskrit in school. I love the language that is the root of the Assamese tongue. The government should continue to teach Sanskrit even if the tols cease to exist,” she said three days ago.

“But the government must find something bad in the tols before deciding to turn them into high schools,” she added.

Mr. Sarma reacted late on Friday.

“The government has its own way of functioning and not on the basis of what parents think or feel. It takes decisions based on facts and necessities of the people in general. Almost 80% of the Sanskrit tols have become meaningless today,” he said.

The Education Minister, who also holds the Finance and Health portfolios, asserted that the tols had become “meaningless” and were essentially “factories for mere matriculation (high school-leaving class 10 exam)”.

He added: “Fact is, most tols this year had no candidates for the Class X exams. The government cannot waste its limited resources. The closure and transformation (of tols and madrasas) will happen.”

The closure of the madrasas and tols is expected in the next academic session from April.

Assam has 614 government-run and recognised madrasas. There are more than 900 tols but only 97 are government-aided, officials said.

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