Northeast India: A Muslim boy’s success and its aftermath


An Assamese Muslim student tops the Secondary Education Board of Assam conducted High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examination; will it make a national headline? May be or may not; but if the boy appears the important tenth standard examination from a Hindu culture based institution, it can create extraordinary news across India.

Such an amazing outcome was observed recently in Guwahati, the virtual capital of northeast India, where a middle-class student named Sarfaraz Hussain topped the HSLC examination with 590 marks out of 600 from Shankardev Shishu Niketan, run by the Hindu-centric Vidya Bharati affiliated Assam Shishu Shiksha Samity.

Even though the result, which was declared on 31 May 2016, did not surprise the people of Assam, as it was quite a natural phenomenon, but the correlation between the Muslim student and  Rashtriya Swaying Sewak (RSS) backed school made ripples in national media outlets as a usual happening.

However, Sarfaraz is not the first and only Muslim student to get an education in an RSS’s educational wing affiliated institutions of Assam. There would be more than 20 Muslim students who are undergoing studies at the Betkuchi of Guwahati-based Shankardev Shishu Niketan. But the acute poverty faced by 16 years old student, which he overcome to achieve the success, really made the news amazing. Sarfaraz’s father works in a city based hotel and his little earning compelled Ajmal Hussain to seek supports from the institution, which was responded positively by the school management. Otherwise, it might have been difficult for Hussain to continue his son’s education. Hussain credited the Sarfaraz’s success to his hard work, teaching staff of Shankardev Shishu Niketan and also the Hindu Goddess (of
learning) Devi Saraswati.

Over 381,500 students appeared in the examination, where over 62 percent candidates succeeded. Altogether 232 students topped the list of 20 meritorious positions, where 44 students belonged to various Vidya Bharati affiliated school (inclusive of Sarfaraz).

Vidya Bharati, which runs 12,000 schools across India, it’s State entity Assam Shishu Shiksha Nyas maintenance over 500 educational institutions in the State, where hundreds of Muslim students enroll every year. One can find a number of Muslim teachers in these schools, which is named after the great Assamese saint, philosopher and reformer Shrimanta Shankardev (1449-1568).

Sarfaraz’s success came in an opportune moment for the newly inducted Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at Dispur. The first BJP chief minister of the State Sarbananda Sonowal was quick to appreciate & encourage all students for the hard works for the important examination. Moreover, his minister Sarma rushed to the residence of Sarfaraz and even addressed a gathering in his school.

“We feel proud for Sarfaraz and many others like him who succeeded in their endeavour. Moreover, I appreciate Shankardev Shishu Niketan for its continued success stories,” said minister Sarma after accepting Pranam and sweets from Sarfaraz.

The minister declared that the government would fix an amount of rupees five lakh in the bank for his higher studies. As Sarfaraz wanted to study at Cotton College in Guwahati, Sarma assured that he would arrange free enrolling for Sarfaraz in the prestigious century old institution.

“Not only Sarfaraz, but every meritorious student belonged to the weaker section of the society would be supported financially by relevant educational expenditures,” added the young minister. He also announced rupees ten lakh for the up-gradation of Shankardev Shishu Niketan and assured immediate maintenance of the approach road to the institution.

Assam government now plans to establish more such schools as the minister declared that every Panchayat of Assam would have such in real sense secular institutions. Sarma declared that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, etc. had been living in Assam for centuries with harmony and that fabric should not be destroyed.

A similar point of views was expressed by BJP’s only Muslim legislator in the 14th Assam Legislative Assembly. Aminul Haque Laskar, who was elected from Sonai Assembly constituency in Barak Valley as a BJP nominee, believes that he is an Assamese first. The fifty years old graduate turned active student leader attracted to Asom Gana Parishad and finally shifted his locality to the saffron party, commented that India was the safest country in the world for Muslims.

Sarfaraz’s success also delighted the headmaster of the school Akshay Kalita, who termed the event as an inspiring example for other students. Kalita mentioned that besides his study, Sarfaraz was fluent in Sanskrit and won many awards in Geeta reciting competition. Sarfaraz also served as the secretary of Saraswati Puja committee in the school.

The headmaster asserted that the school always emphasizes on quality education without religious colour. Moreover, regular interactions with the parents also help to understand various parameters related to the academic performance & other activities of the enrolling students, added Kalita.

“With my parent, my school too played a vital role in whatever success I have achieved today. I was expecting to be among the first ten positions, but my hard works brought me the real glory,” said Sarfaraz wearing an Assamese traditional Gamocha on his neck.

Sarfaraz also expressed optimism that he could continue his academic journey. He plans to study at Cotton College up-to twelfth class and then pursue engineering educations. Sarfaraz remains confident that he would let his parent and school teachers down in future as well.


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