The Gujarat government has been collecting data about Muslim students, appearing for Class 10 and 12 board examinations, for the last five years, state Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said on Tuesday.
The Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Board (GSHSB), which comes under the Gujarat government's Education Department, has been collecting this specific data.
The data collection is done from the school authorities in the online board examination forms. The information is accessible through a special username and password-protected software for the filling of students' examination forms.
When the school authorities fill the forms online, a question is asked whether the student is from the minority community. After being answered "Yes", the user is given only two options, "Muslim" or "Other".
This practice has been going on since 2013, the Education Minister confirmed to news agency IANS.
When asked why only Muslims are being separately identified when there are other minority community students in Gujarat as well, Education Minister Chudasama told news agency IANS at his state Secretariat office on Tuesday evening: "To collect data."
When repeated why only Muslims, he said the same thing: "To collect data." He repeated this line for every subsequent question, including when asked why is this data being collected.
"This is to collect data. We have been maintaining this data since 2013. To date, nobody has ever complained about it," Mr Chudasama said.
Asked whether the government will change it, he added: "Why should we change anything?"
Asked why no school authorities are questioning this practice when it is continuing since 2013 and there are scores of schools of the minority community in the state, Asif Khan Pathan, Principal of Crescent Higher Secondary School here said: "You see, we already face so many problems of our own; we found this practice unusual, but we never thought of complaining or even questioning the government's motive behind this."
"Many of us were not aware," said Kausar Ali Saiyad, the founder of Hamaari Awaaz, an organisation working for the Muslim community.
"If the government is really concerned about higher education of Muslim students and is collecting data, I will be glad. But I have not seen this happening in any of the government's policies for post-metriculation scholarships or any other schemes for Muslim students," Kauser Ali said.