New Delhi: The Gujarat government is using a mandatory online form to identify Muslim students appearing for their 10th and 12th standard Board examinations, Ahmedabad Mirror reported on Friday.
The online form asks the students whether they belong to the minority category. Once the student chooses the category, the form gives two further categories to identify themselves with: ‘Muslim’ and ‘Others’.
The newspaper pointed out that although Gujarat has at least four other religious minorities – Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains – the Gujarat government is asking only Muslim students to identify themselves.
Each year, around 17.5 lakh students write the Board exams in Gujarat, conducted by the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (GSHSEB).
The students’ parents who came to know of the discrepancy fear it is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Gujarat government to collect data on Muslim students.
A student’s father who wanted to remain anonymous told the Ahmedabad Mirror, “The forms are usually filled by the school administration. I came to know after I went to school to fill up my child’s form and saw that they had asked if we belong to the minority. When we clicked on “yes”, it offered two options: “Muslims or Others”. This left me wondering if the data gathered from online forms could be misused for something else. This has raised fear in me.”
An Ahmedabad-based Muslim restauranteur, whose son is appearing for his 12th Science examinations, told the Ahmedabad Mirror, “I am scared. Before 2002, a similar exercise was initiated by the Gujarat government where every police station was asked to identify Muslim businesses in their locality. My restaurant was singled out and burnt. It was revealed that rioters had used the census collected by the government and police. I am scared for my son now. Why is Gujarat government keen to know if the student is Muslim or not. What is the purpose?”
GSHEB chairman A.J. Shah told the newspaper that the same form had been in place since 2013. “I have seen this form in this format for past two years. There are other questions that seeks student’s information including whether s/he is differently abled. So far, nobody has complained to me about details of Muslim students.”
Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani called the action “unconstitutional”. The Constitution does not allow any discrimination on basis of religion. “The BJP can’t be trusted to put that data to any good, and thus, this gathering of data is also extremely worrisome. Moreover, it is very disgusting that they are reaping such divisive seeds in young minds. This action of the government is extremely disturbing and should be immediately rescinded,” told Ahmedabad Mirror.
Patidar leader Hardik Patel said, “On one hand, BJP talks about nationalism and, on the other hand, it is show-casing its divisive nature. It is shocking that the BJP government is asking Muslim students to identify their religion. The BJP must treat all citizens equally and not discriminate on the basis of religion. It is the government, not the education department, which is at the helm of such divisive conspiracies.”