Published: 30th May 2019
Secularism much: This Kolkata college will now let you choose Humanism as your religion in your application form
Bethune College, the first ever women's college to be established in Asia, will now let UG and PG applicants choose 'manavdharma' as their religion in their form
You are first a human being, then comes your nationality, then your religion and all the other labels that the society imposes on you. Hasn't this been taught to us since time immemorial? Indian culture has taught its students to have a humanitarian approach towards whatever they do in life. Keeping our cultural ethos and these values in mind, Bethune College in Kolkata has taken a huge step towards being more inclusive. The online application for the current academic year includes an option to choose 'Humanism' as your religion among others that you already see in any other application such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Jainism.
So, what does that mean for the students who are filling in the applications? The Oxford Dictionary defines Humanism as "an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasise common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems." A student can choose to be humanitarian if they wish to and they do not necessarily have to choose the religion they were born into.
Admissions Convener and Physics Professor Dr Kamal Kanti Som explained that over the years they have observed that a lot of students have opted to choose no religion while filling their forms. He adds, "Maybe this was the reason why our admissions committee and other officials decided to bring in this option. However, we have to send the entire student registration data to Calcutta University after all the applications have come in. We do not yet know if they will accept this change. We will have to wait and see or we might be required to put the students into the already existing ones."
Piyali Gupta, a professor from the English Department of the college, says, "I am proud to be a part of this institution. Bethune has always set extraordinary examples for others to follow. This is definitely a great move and I hope that others follow suit."
Ex-students of the college have welcomed this move and that probably the move is a first-of-its-kind to have been implemented by a college. You can check out the application forms on www.bethuneadmissions.ac.in. "This is an extremely commendable step. I think, now that the whole country is embroiled in hate-based religious politics, this is a very positive step. It would maybe give the message that you don't have to choose one sect above the other, you can choose humanity as a whole. It's a beginning. And I'm always proud of being a student from Bethune, more so now," says Adrita Biswas, an ex-student.
Other ex-students were also of the same opinion. "In this era of rampant communalism and polarisation based on religion, we often forget that we are human beings above all. That my alma mater has incorporated this humanitarian aspect in the application form is a matter of great pride to me as an ex-student," adds Bidushi Das, who graduated from Bethune in 2015. Prathista Das, another alumna was overwhelmed after she came to know about this move. "This is a piece of wonderful, unprecedented news. I feel proud to have been a part of this institution. This is indeed an inspiration and I am sure this would be taken up by other colleges sooner or later," she says.