- Post 29 November 2016
"I have come to know that many government-run madrassas, especially in Lakhimpur, Nagaon and Morigaon districts, have been observing a holiday on Fridays. This is not officially recognized, nor is it a government-scheduled holiday. Therefore, we will not allow the closure of madrassas on Fridays. We will make provisions for an hour's break for the Friday prayer," Sarma said.
He said the lack of 'official sanction' was the problem. "Friday is observed as a holiday in Bangladesh and Pakistan. As far as I know, there is no law in India which recognizes Friday as a holiday in our country. No circular has been issued by the Assam government about observing Friday as a holiday. We are not against any religion. We are enforcing the law," Sarma said.
Sarma's stand has triggered angry reactions, especially from Muslim leaders and organizations, across the state.
Former Congress minister Siddique Ahmed accused a "communally divisive agenda" to be behind the stand and appealed to the Muslim community to boycott Sarma's public meetings.
"India is a secular democratic country. For years, Friday has been observed as a holiday, especially in madrassas. Other religions also have holidays on days of religious significance. But it is unfortunate that Sarma, as a minister, is comparing India to Bangladesh and Pakistan on the issue of Friday as a holiday," Ahmed said.
The comparison has evoked sharp reactions across the state.
Assam State Jamiat Ulama president Badruddin Ajmal said the minister's comparison of India to Bangladesh and Pakistan on the issue is "condemnable".
"There was no necessity of bringing in the context of Bangladesh and Pakistan for the sake of comparison. We get a whiff of communalism in the comparison," Ajmal said.