The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No to religion, nod to job

Remember Tehmina Khatun' Last year, she had made a powerful point, with Calcutta High Court asking the government to ensure her entry into a state-aided basic training college, which had rejected her because her admission form did not mention her religion. Khatun, 37, won her legal battle last August. This autumn, she is reaping the benefits — landing a government job, for which she did not have to mention her religion.

After the high court order went in favour of Khatun and The Telegraph published her story, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had gone public, saying that the mention of one’s religion would no longer be essential in a government document. A gazette notification was issued accordingly.

Recently, Khatun was offered a job in West Bengal Heritage Commission, an institution under the cultural affairs department of the state government.

“I spent 10 years of my life in the corridors of the court to fight a legal battle. Now, I am no longer qualified in terms of my age for a government job. So, I had to accept whatever the government offered to me,” she said.

Khatun’s struggle for a truly secular identity dates back to 1993, when she sat for an admission test at Gandhi Memorial Basic Training College in Habra, North 24-Parganas. This was a year after her marriage to Sukumar Mitra.

Though she topped the entrance exam, Khatun was denied admission. The college authorities reasoned that she could not be considered as she had not filled up the form — the slot where she was required to mention her religion was blank.

Khatun and her husband moved Barasat munsif court against “bias and injustice”, but the judgment went against them. Then, the couple moved high court.

After a lengthy legal battle, stretching nearly 10 years, justice came their way in August 2002. A division bench of Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice H.K. Banerjee set aside the order of the trial court, as it was not mandatory for Khatun to mention her religion.

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