Justice Markandey Katju: The closure of Madarsas in Uttar Pradesh

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

The Allahabad High Court, in its March 22 verdict, declared the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madarsa Education Act, 2004 to be unconstitutional, being against the principle of secularism. You can read the full judgment here.

I agree with the verdict that Madarsa education violates the constitutional principle of secularism. It also violates Article 21A of the Indian Constitution which declares the right to get education up to the age of 14 a fundamental right.

Education, to my mind, means modern, secular education, not the largely theological education imparted in Madarsas or Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, which inculcate bigotry, and brainwash the tender and susceptible minds of children with religious extremism.

In para 100 of the judgment, the Court observed:

“Since there are a large number of Madarsas and Madarsa students in the State of U.P., the State Government is directed to take steps forthwith for accommodating these Madarsa students in regular schools recognized under the Primary Education Board and schools recognized under the High School and Intermediate Education Board of State of U.P. The State Government for the said purpose shall ensure that as per requirement sufficient number of additional seats are created and further if required, sufficient number of new schools are established. The State Government shall also ensure that children between the ages of 6 to 14 years are not left without admission in duly recognized institutions.”

This is easier said than done. Existing government secular schools are overcrowded, with some even having 200 students in one section of a class, and private schools are expensive. There are an estimated 25,000 Madarsas in UP, of which 18,500 are recognized by the UP Madarsa Education Board. There are close to 2.5 million students in these Madarsas, and thousands of teachers.

Before shutting down existing Madarsas, thousands of modern secular schools will have to be built, with proper classrooms, laboratories, libraries, etc, and competent teachers and other staff appointed. This will require a huge outlay of funds, and careful planning, and cannot be done overnight.

I would also like to suggest a way to accommodate the thousands of teachers who will be rendered unemployed by this closure. I delivered a judgment in 1993 in the Allahabad High Court, Ramesh Upadhyaya vs State of UP, in which I recommended that Sanskrit and Urdu, our two great cultural language, should be made compulsory in every school in UP for 5 years up to Class 8.

If this judgment is implemented, a large number of posts of Urdu teachers will be created, and the current teachers in Madarsas (who would all be knowing Urdu) can be appointed to those posts.

By the same logic, Saraswati Shishu Mandirs run by the RSS should also be closed down, and the students transferred to modern secular schools.

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