In a move that has sparked controversy, authorities in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, have suspended payments to teachers of subjects such as mathematics and science in Muslim religious schools, known as madrasahs. The funding halt, impacting over 21,000 teachers, comes after the conclusion of a federal government scheme. The decision, which affects more than 70,000 madrasahs covered by the now-closed program, has raised questions about the government’s commitment to minority education.
The scheme’s funding was discontinued in March 2022, with approvals for new proposals halted four years earlier. However, the state government’s recent decision to cease payments remains unclear. Critics argue that the suspension jeopardizes educational progress and may setback Muslim students and teachers by decades.
Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, the chief of the state’s madrasah education board, expressed concerns, stating, “The decision to stop this scheme will take us back to where we started. Muslim students and teachers will go back by 30 years.” Javed also urged the revival of the scheme in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, highlighting the impact on teachers who hadn’t received the federal government’s share for the past six years.
Muslims constitute about 14% of India’s population, and Uttar Pradesh has a significant Muslim minority, comprising nearly a fifth of the state’s inhabitants. The move comes amid broader debates about the treatment of minority religious institutions, with concerns also raised in Assam, another BJP-ruled state, where Muslim religious schools are being converted into conventional schools.
The document from the Ministry of Minority Affairs reveals that Modi’s government did not approve any new proposals from states in the last four fiscal years before closing the program in 2021/22. Critics argue that nationalist groups have targeted religious minorities under the BJP government, while officials maintain the decision may be linked to a 2009 law on free compulsory education for children that primarily covers regular government schools.