BJP dares CM Thackeray to close down state-funded madrassas in Maharashtra

Atul Bhatkhalkar & Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai : In a bid to embarrass the Shiv Sena that once fought for Hindutva, the BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar wrote a letter to the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asking him to show courage to shut down the state-funded madrasas in the state and prove his “Hindutva credentials.”

The BJP spokesman, Bhatkhalkar wrote the letter on Thursday in the wake of BJP-controlled Assam government’s decision to close down all state-run madrasas there.

The saffron party has escalated its attack on the chief minister Thackeray following a war of words between him and the Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari after the latter wrote to the CM seeking to re-open of places of worship in the state and asked the Sena chief whether he has suddenly turned secular. In his letter, Koshyari lauded Thackeray for being a strong votary of Hindutva. “You had publicly espoused your devotion for Lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as the Chief Minister. You had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadhi Ekadashi.”

However, Thackeray hit back to his letter, saying he did not need his Hindutva credentials certified by Koshyari. “What you mentioned about my Hindutva in the letter is absolutely correct,” he said in a letter to the Governor written in Marathi. “But my Hindutva does not need your certificate. Also, I don’t need to learn it from anyone. It does not fit into my Hindutva to welcome home, with a smile, those who call my state or the capital of my state Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.” This was a reference to the Governor’s meeting with film actor Kangana Ranaut.

In a counter move, the BJP leader said in his letter, “The Chief Minister of Maharashtra who says he does not need anyone’s certificate to prove his Hindutva credentials should take a courageous step to shut down the state-funded madrasas that propagate radical religious teachings. These institutions do not provide any modern education, and offer teachings of only one religion. It is wrong to run such institutions on taxpayers’ money.” Bhatkhalkar also said students from the Muslim community should be given a direct scholarship so that they can attend mainstream schools.

In his letter, Bhatkhalkar congratulated the Assam government for taking a similar decision. He said Shia Waqf Board chief Wasim Rizvi has already made a similar demand to the Prime Minister to ban madrasas and wages to religious preachers and scholarship to madrassa students. He insisted that the chief minister should not succumb to any pressure to continue funding these institutions.

Earlier, the Assam government announced to close down all state-run madrasas and Sanskrit tols (schools) as it can’t afford to teach religious scriptures with public funds.

The state government maintained that there should be no religious education with government’s funding. There are 614 government-aided recognised madrasas in Assam — 57 for girls, three for boys, and 554 co-educational, with 17 of them Urdu medium. There are nearly 1,000 recognised Sanskrit tols, of which around 100 are government-aided. The Assam government spends about Rs 3-4 crore on madrasas and about Rs 1 crore on Sanskrit tols in the state annually.