West Bengal universities schedule exams on Eid day: Willful indifference or systemic discrimination

By Mirza Mosarraf Hossain, TwoCircles.net

 This year Anjum Shaheen will be observing Eid without her family. Shaheen who is from Dhanbad in Jharkhand is a second-year student of Botany Department from Lady Brabourne College in Kolkata.

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“ I don’t have any option except staying at the hostel there in Kolkata. It will be very difficult for me to celebrate Eid at home and sit for the exam the next day. So this year I have planned to celebrate Eid with the hostel mates.”

Shaheen along with hundreds of Muslim students from the peripheral districts of West Bengal or neighbouring states who are pursuing their studies in Kolkata-based colleges and universities are going through a tough time deciding to appear for their exams to celebrating Eid with families. This is because their exams are scheduled on 4th, 6th, or 7th i.e. either one day before Eid, on the day or one day after the Eid, the holy festival of the Muslims that likely to be celebrated either on 5th or 6th of June this year in the Indian subcontinent. Whereas some of them are planning to celebrate Eid with friends at their hostels; others are taking the festive day just as any other days in their lives.

  While Jadavpur University has scheduled its Even Semester exams on 7th of June, Calcutta University also did so on the same date in some of its UG 2nd Year Honors courses. The same thing happens with the West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training, Planning and Administration which has scheduled its I, II, and III Semester M.Ed exam on 4th, 6th, and on the 7th of June.

 Kalyani University, a State-run university, had scheduled its M.Sc second Semester exam in Zoology on the 6th of June and many other subjects on the same date. But now they have changed it when a Muslim staff brought the date of Eid into the notice of the concerned university authority. Another State-run university, namely West Bengal State University, which also scheduled various exams on 6th, 7th for some of the UG courses, has assured the change of the date when few Bengali News Portal and two newspapers, Kalom and Dindarpan, highlighted the issue.

 However, this is not for the first time when this issue comes out, in the previous years, it also occurred even by reputed universities like Calcutta University when in the last year it set its exam routine on just one day before Eid and one day just after the Eid. The insensitivity of the concerned authorities has raised deep anguish among the students, staff as well as many people of the Muslim community.

 Afroza Khatun, associate Professor of Calcutta University affiliated Surendranath College for Women at the Department of Bengali vented her anger over the mismanagement of the university administration in dealing with these issues. She said, “The reason is because of the lack of Muslim representation at the administration level. Also, it’s not that the authority does not know what or when Eid is, it is their utter indifference towards the culture, the belief system of the Muslim community.”

  When TwoCircles.Net contacted Dr. Chiranjib Bhattacharya, the Dean of the Engineering and Technology Department, who also holds an additional charge of Controller of the Examinations of the University, said, “This is a genuine issue. I shall look into the matter. I was out of the station, just returned today. There will be no conflict with Eid. We will be cautious.” 

 When Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University failed to respond to several calls and messages, TwoCircles.Net contacted the Acting Controller of Examinations, Dr. Jayeeta Dutta Gupta took no responsibility, “It is not possible for me to say anything over this matter. You have to talk to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor regarding this matter”.

 But as the calendar shows the celebration of Eid on 5th of June, the concerned authorities of the Universities seem to be indifferent while making exam timetable.

 As Nurjahan Khatun, a student of Surendranath College for Women from Sujapur of Malda district, 338 km away from Kolkata said, and “Why University Authority doesn’t keep these matters in mind while making exam routines? We get only one festival after fasting for one month and we are unable to celebrate that.” She added, “Every year Muslim students of Calcutta University affiliated colleges, especially UG second-year students, face the same problem. We can’t think about going home on the eve of Eid because in our first year we gave satisfactory exams but got average marks. And now if we go home for at least two days for celebrating Eid, what will happen with our marks? 

Another student from Murshidabad’s Dhuliyan, 300 km away from his university, West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training, Planning and Administration, Golam Mortuza, M.Ed Second Semester spoke regarding this problem at his university and he said, “We approached the Controller of Examinations to request him to change the date. But he said it can’t be done as the dates till 27th of June is packed up and warned of shifting dates on the dates of National Eligibility Test that will also take place during that time. So we left it and resolved to stay at the hostel.”

 The Registrar of the West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training & Education Panning Administration, Tapas Basu could not be contacted as his phone rang unanswered and WhatsApp messages unanswered for his comments on the issue as raised by students.

 The Muslim community comprises 30% of the total population in the State. But the way they are treated under the disguise of ‘mistakes’ either in time of scheduling exam timetable or offering only one day as a holiday on the day of Eid, it attests reluctance, willful indifference and lack of respect by the concerned authorities towards the culture, custom, religious festivities of the particular community.

 Importantly, the Chief Minister of the State, Mamata Banerjee, is often accused of appeasing Muslims as vote banks. But this kind of institutionalized ‘mistakes’ reminds us of the ground reality over the condition of the community attesting that the ‘Muslim appeasement’ is nothing but a bluff.