Indian court bans madrasas in big state before election

Move further alienate Muslim voters against Prime Minister Narendra Modi before polls, say analysts.

NEW DELHI (Reuters): A court in India essentially banned Islamic schools in the country’s most populous state.

This move is set to further distance many Muslims from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government ahead of national elections.

The ruling scraps a 2004 law governing madrasas in Uttar Pradesh, saying it violates India’s constitutional secularism and ordering that students be moved to conventional schools.

The Allahabad High Court order affects 2.7 million students and 10,000 teachers in 25,000 madrasas, said Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, head of the board of madrasa education in the state, where one-fifth of the 240 million people are Muslims.

“The state government shall also ensure that children between the ages of 6 to 14 years are not left without admission in duly recognised institutions,” Judges Subhash Vidyarthi and Vivek Chaudhary wrote in their order, which was made on the basis of an appeal by lawyer Anshuman Singh Rathore.

India holds a general election between April and June that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win. Muslims and rights groups have accused some BJP members and affiliates of promoting anti-Islamic hate speech and vigilantism, and demolishing Muslim-owned properties.

Modi denies religious discrimination exists in India.

The BJP says the government is undoing historical wrongs, including by recently inaugurating a Hindu temple on the site of a 16th-century mosque razed in 1992. Many Hindus believe the mosque was built where God-king Ram was born and over a temple demolished under the Mughal ruler Babur.

Rakesh Tripathi, a spokesperson for Uttar Pradesh BJP, which runs the state government, said it was not against madrasas and was concerned about the education of Muslim students.


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