KOLKATA: Around 50 colleges in West Bengal, including a number of prominent ones in Kolkata, have started offering ‘humanity’, ‘agnostic’, ‘secular’ and ‘non-religious’ as options in the religion column of online admission forms for students who are unwilling to disclose their faith.
Till the last academic year, applicants had the option of choosing only traditional religions. The decision was taken after many, over the years, had questioned the need to declare one’s religious identity while seeking admission to educational institutions.
“We found that many applicants had been identifying themselves as non-believer in the option where they were supposed to mention their religion,” said an official involved in the admission process at the century-old Bethune College. “Following this, the college authorities decided to consider and provide ‘humanity’ as a choice to students while filling the forms, firstly, for the online applications.”
Some other colleges in the city, such as Scottish Church College, Moulana Azad College, and Calcutta Women’s College, have also provided ‘agnostic’, ‘secular’ and ‘non-religious’ as options to students.
The list of colleges in the districts includes Maharaja Srichandra College in Andul in Howrah district, Midnapore College in Midnapore town, and Acharya Prafulla Chandra College in North 24-Parganas.
According to several degree aspirants as well as academics, “humanism” instead of humanity would have been a better term.
“This is historic. But we should consider providing humanism,” an academic at the Presidency University said, requesting anonymity. Sagarika Sen, an applicant for the English honours course in Bethune College, said, “This is an extremely progressive step. I consider this as an expression of historical importance. Though I am a Hindu by birth, I have never liked the idea of disclosing my religious identity.”