In a strange way when the results of the matric (Class 10 board) examinations of Assam were declared on Tuesday (May 31), the right-wing outfit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was given credit for the success achieved by the toppers.
The media went overboard highlighting how students from schools run by the RSS achieved stupendous success in the matric exams that usually decide the fate of a student's future course of career.
The exams were conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Assam, commonly known as SEBA, the state level authority responsible for conducting examinations and providing assurance for the quality of education imparted in schools within Assam.
Media gave credit to RSS
Even the national newspapers and TV channels reported about the announcement of the board exam results of the state in a big way. It was perhaps for the first time Assam board exam results were reported in such a huge scale by the mainstream media.
We all know, except for terror attacks and important political news, stories from the northeast hardly make their way to the national media. What caught the media attention is that a Muslim boy studying in a school run by the RSS topped the board exams.
Thus read some of the headlines in the prominent newspapers and news websites:
RSS school's Muslim boy tops Assam 10th boards (The Times of India)
Assam Class 10 topper is a Muslim boy from RSS-backed school (Hindustan Times)
Muslim boy from Sangh Parivar school tops Assam Class X exams (The Indian Express)
Muslim Student of RSS-Run School in Assam Tops Class 10 (The Quint)
RSS-run schools bring glory to the first BJP government in Assam
Sarfaraz Hussain topped the Class 10 exams by securing 590 marks out of 600. The 16-year-old boy is a student of the Shankardev Shishu Niketan in Betkuchi in Guwahati. The school is run by the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan or Vidya Bharati. The Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan is the educational wing of the RSS.
According to media reports, 25 top positions--including the first--in the board exams were bagged by students studying in various schools run by the RSS across the northeastern state.
The newly-formed BJP government in the state did not shy away from basking in the glory of success stories scripted by these young minds.
Let us not forget that the RSS played a pivotal role in ending the 15-years rule of the Congress in the state in the recently declared results of the Assam Assembly Elections 2016.
In a volatile state like Assam which since decades has been bearing the brunt of illegal immigration from the neighbouring country Bangladesh, the subject of religion is sensitive.
The RSS and the BJP have openly supported to provide shelter to Hindu illegal migrants from across the border. However, the ruling party has promised to act tough when it comes to deport Muslim illegal migrants.
Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who also had the same portfolio during the earlier Congress regime, was so euphoric that he announced the setting up of RSS-run schools in every panchayat of the state.
Sarma told reporters, "It is the dream of his ideological family (RSS) to see a Shankardev Shishu Niketan school in every panchayat." Himanta on behalf of the government also assured financial assistance to Sarfaraz, whose father works in a hotel.
Saffronisation of education is a reality?
The state currently has 549 schools run by the Assam Shishu Siksha Niyas, the state branch of Vidya Bharati.
Several academicians and political observers fear that the saffronisation of education has already started in the state in a big way.
"Right-wing outfits like RSS are directly involved in imparting education in the state. The saffronisation of education is a reality in Assam and it is a worrying factor," said a retired professor of Gauhati University on the condition of anonymity.
Doubts about saffronisation of education raised by the critics of the BJP and RSS are rubbished by none other than Sarfaraz himself, who wants to be an engineer.
"I had no problem chanting prayers in Sanskrit, including the gayatri mantra. I have always scored 100/100 in Sanskrit till Class VIII," Sarfaraz told The Indian Express.
Since the BJP-led NDA government has come to power in the Centre in 2014, textbooks are undergoing massive overhaul. More emphasis is now been given to highlight Hindu ancient texts and Hindu leaders and personalities in the school curriculum.