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Gujarat Govt Makes Only Muslim Students Identify Religion for Board Exams

Other minorities simply click on “Others”. Educationists have called this process “insensitive” and “scary”.

Why should Muslim students in Gujarat, appearing for their class X and XII board exams have to identify their religion in particular? Mirror, on November 22, reported that when students register for board exams in the state, the mandatory online form asks students if they belong to the minority category. Should one select that, they have to answer: Are they “Muslim” or “Others”.

Despite Gujarat being home to five large groups of minorities — Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Muslims — the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) only seems interested in identifying Muslims. The state, with a history of bigotry and violence against its Muslim population, is a bastion of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Opposition leader Jignesh Mevani rightly called this criterion “unconstitutional” — “The Constitution of India does not allow any discrimination on basis of religion. This latest subvert action by BJP raises suspicion.” This rule has allegedly been in place for at least five years now. Speaking to Mirror, GSHSEB chairman AJ Shah said, “I have seen this form in this format for past two years. There are other questions that seek student’s information including whether s/he is differently abled. So far, nobody has complained to me about details of Muslim students.”

Educationists across the state have voiced their concerns, calling this process “insensitive”, “scary” and even “cheap”. Muslims, at a little more than 9.6 per cent, make up the largest minority group in the state. With as many as 17.14 lakh students having written their Board exams in the state in 2018, that’s more than 1.6 lakh students that stand the chance of having been specially identified on the basis of their religion. This leaves them vulnerable to several forms of discrimination.

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