A registration form for admission to Maharashtra SSC and HSC examinations for class 10 and 12 students has created quite a stir after BJP Maharashtra MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar claimed that the State Board has removed the sub-category ‘Hindu’ from the form.

Times Now carried a perfunctory news report on the allegation. “Maharashtra government has removed the ‘Hindu’ option from classes 10, 12 exam forms. The state government has used the ‘Non-Minority’ word instead of the Hindu option in the newly released exam forms for the next board exams,” claimed the channel.

The report added that Bhatkhalkar has warned the Shiv Sena if the word ‘Hindu’ is not put back in the exam form in the next 24 hours, he would lead a movement to burn the forms across the state.

The allegation makes its way to social media

Bhatkhalkar’s claim soon began widely circulating on Twitter with the message that children have been asked their faith in the form but the Hindu religion does not find a mention. Below is a tweet by Akash RSS, a user followed by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. Akash has often been found sharing misinformation online.

Another Twitter user @Ocjain4 who is followed by BJP leader Kapil Mishra also promoted the claim.

That the sub-category ‘Hindu’ has been removed by the Maharashtra government from the SSC and HSC exam forms is widespread on Facebook as well.

Fact-check

This report will fact-check the following claims:

1. Is this a new form released for next board examination?

2. Has the option to select ‘Hindu’ as one’s religion been removed?

Form has been in use since 2014

The BJP was in power in Maharashtra in an alliance with the Shiv Sena from 2014 to 2019. Shakuntala Kale, chairperson of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, was quoted in The Times of India saying, “The form was drafted in 2013 and has been in use since the 2014 exams.”

When asked by the news outlet why the BJP did not change the format during its rule, Bhatkhalkar claimed that the word ‘non-minority’ replacing the word ‘Hindu’ is a recent alteration to make “some” happy, and “to protect one vote bank, anti-Hindu decisions are being consistently taken.”

Alt News, however, found Bhatkhalkar’s accusation to be completely false.

A copy of the SSC form uploaded in 2017 on the website of Maharashtra Board, Pune when the BJP was in power carries the option ‘non-minority’. The link includes a circular which mentions the date as 9/9/2017 in Marathi.

An identical HSC exam form uploaded in 2017 can be accessed here.

We also checked the Maharashtra State Board website that carries sample forms for SSC and HSC exams. The creation date of the forms is 2017.

A report published in The Times of India on September 3, 2013 also supports the state government’s stance that the form has been in use since 2014. “From next academic year, application forms for the SSC and HSC exams will have a separate column where candidates can mention if they belong to a minority community,” reads the report.

‘Hindu’ is not one of the options because it isn’t a minority religion

A cursory observation itself renders the claim baseless. The 11th point in the form asks students to select their minority religion. In case they don’t hail from a minority faith, there is an option of choosing ‘non-minority’. Hinduism is the majority religion in the country, therefore, to have ‘Hindu’ as one of the options for a question inquiring about students’ minority faith does not make sense.

“The purpose of the column is in line with requirements of the Central and state minorities department. Hence, the column lists minorities which are notified by the state government. For students who don’t belong to those (categories), there is an option of non-minority,” said Kale.

BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar’s accusation that the Shiv Sena government no longer gives SSC candidates the option to choose ‘Hindu’ as their religion is false. The format has been in place since 2014 when the BJP was in power in Maharashtra with the Shiv Sena. The claim was amplified by Times Now which did not verify Bhatkhalkar’s allegation and published it as true. This was further promoted by BJP supporters on social media.

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