WBCHSE president draws flak for highlighting religious identity of topper
The president of West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education (WBCHSE), Mahua Das, has come in the eye of storm for highlighting the religious identity of the topper during the announcement of Class 12 results, with political leaders claiming that the move was in tandem with the TMC’s appeasement politics.
A senior council official, however, said that Das just wanted to underline the fact that a girl from a minority community has "fought social and economic hurdles" to become the topper. Das, without taking her name, had said on Thursday a Muslim girl from Murshidabad district scored 499 out of 500 and emerged as the lone topper in the Class 12 results.
She had also stressed that no merit list was prepared this year. Taking umbrage at her statement, BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted, "In Mamata Banerjee's Bengal, appeasement politics hits a new low, when a board official reduced academic achievement of a class 12th girl student to her religious identity....she repeatedly mentioned that the girl is a Muslim. "One wonders what more these students have to endure," Malviya said.
Similarly, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury said it had a “jarring” effect on the ears when the council, during its press conference, said a Muslim girl came first. "We will be happier if there is no attempt to flag the religious identity of a girl student. It is praiseworthy that a girl student secured the first rank, leaving behind boys," he noted.
Claiming that Das should relieved of her responsibilities if she does not apologise for her remark, Congress students’ wing state unit president Sourabh Prasad said it is a “matter of regret that “honourable council president kept harping on the religious identity of the topper but refrained from mentioning her name”. "We demand that she either tender her apology in public for her comment or be relieved of her responsibilities," Prasad said.
Eminent educationists, too, criticised Das for “mixing merit with religion”. Amal Mukhopadhyay, the former principal of erstwhile Presidency College, said, "Das may have made the remark inadvertently, feeling emotional about the feat of the girl, but she made a cardinal mistake by mixing merit with religion. "Merit cannot be referred to in the same breath with religion. During admission, too, many students object to this reference to religion in the application forms.”
West Bengal Imams’ Association president Md Yahiya, when approached, said the council chief “humiliated the student and belittled her achievements”. "We demand she be immediately removed from the post for her despicable mindset. Otherwise, we will have to assume that the chief minister endorses such comments as the council president have, in the past, said that she draws inspiration from Mamata Banerjee," Yahiya stated. Despite repeated attempts, the WBCHSE president could not be reached for a comment.