The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bengal: Missionary Schools Upset With Anti-Discriminatory Admission Laws

MITA MUKHERJEE
Calcutta, Nov. 23 2005
The Telegraph

Churches across Bengal are up in arms against the government’s decision to introduce a centralised admission procedure for all state-aided primary teachers’ training institutes.

Out of 102 such training institutes across the state, four are run by various churches.

“This is an infringement on our rights. The Constitution of India guarantees the right to minorities to follow their rules and pursue policies pertaining to the running of their educational institutions,” said Herod Mullick, the general secretary of the Bangiya Christiya Parisheba.

“The number of church-run training institutes may appear small, but the four cater to nearly 400 Bengali medium primary schools across Bengal in providing trained Christian teachers,” said Father Faustine Brank.

The government ruled out accepting the churches’ demand. “They are given substantial funds by the government for running their institutes. We are ready to offer them certain relaxations. They have been allowed to take 25 per cent of their students through their own admission procedure. But as long as they take aid from the government, the remaining 75 per cent of their seats will have to be filled up through the centralised admission test,” said Sulapani Bhattacharya, the president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education.

This is not the first time the churches and the state have been on a collision course. In August this year, the government had announced that missionary schools affiliated to the primary and secondary boards of education would have to follow its rules for recruiting Christian heads if they wanted to avail of government assistance. “If we are forced to admit students in our training centres through the centralised system, we will have to accommodate candidates from the general categories,” Mullick said.

When the Parisheba came to know of the decision early this year, it immediately approached the government. “After repeated requests, the government agreed to allow the church-run institutes to admit 50 per cent of their candidates through their admission procedures,” a church official said. “We were surprised to find that when the entrance exams were held two months ago, we were allowed to fill up only 12.5 per cent of our seats through our admission procedure.”

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