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Aspiring Muslim medical students get a boost in Indian state

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A landmark Supreme Court decision allows thousands of Maharashtra students to take medical entrance tests in their native language -- Urdu.

By Altaf Ahmad

New Delhi: Thanks to the courage of a few, thousands of Muslim students now have a greater chance of pursuing their dreams of getting into medical colleges, after the Supreme Court mandated that eligibility exams be offered in Urdu.

On May 2nd, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir required the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) to conduct the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in Urdu medium in Maharashtra within eight weeks, which is the native language of most Indian Muslims.

The verdict follows when Ansari Mahin Fatima and 20 other students from Milliya Junior College (MJC) in Beed, Maharashtra filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking inclusion of Urdu as a medium of language in the test.

"The decision has boosted my morale and I am hopeful of faring well in the test," Fatima, 18, told Khabar South Asia. "Ever since my childhood I have aspired to become a doctor. The Urdu medium will come handy in realising my dream," she said. "I can prove my talent through the medium of Urdu."

Boosting morale and opportunity

As many as 7,800 aspirants from 227 junior colleges were likely to take the Urdu-language NEET this year in Maharashtra alone, petitioners said.

Nineteen-year old Delhi Mater Dei School student Abeer Hassan said she looked forward to earning her spot on the medical college selection list.

"Earlier I could not apply for MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) courses due to the exclusion of the Urdu language from [the] question papers," Hassan said. "This historic decision will enable me to write the answers in my native tounge."

Muhammad Najam-u-din, 52, lecturer at MJC, and co-ordinator for Urdu language instruction, told Khabar, "The landmark judgment will bring Urdu medium students on par with the English medium students."

Many Urdu-speaking students "will be encouraged to pursue their career in prestigious medical courses including MBBS and BDS (Bachelor of Dentistry and Surgery)," Najam-u-din said. "Through the decision, the court has addressed the aspirations of minority Muslims in the country."

Legal experts say the court addressed the discrimination experienced by Muslim aspirants.

"The decision to conduct entrance test in English, Hindi and six other regional languages, excluding Urdu, was highly arbitrary, discriminatory and in clear violation of Article 14 and 21 of the constitution," Shakil Ahmad Syed, counsel for the petitioners, told Khabar.

"Now [Urdu-speaking] students will get an equal opportunity to compete in the entrance test for admission to the coveted profession," he added. "Significantly, the court has set a precedent for Urdu medium students across the country to take part in the entrance test with authority."

Opportunity for madrassa students

Madrassa students and instructors were satisfied with the decision, but demanded the verdict be made final and extended to all other states.

Moulana Azeemullah Siddiqi, 35, a spokesman for Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), an association advocating for the rights of Muslims and one of the petitioners in the case, told Khabar, "The decision will stimulate interest among thousands of Urdu medium students, including those studying in madrassas, to choose prestigious medical courses as their careers."

Siddiqi said the decision partially addresses the organisation's long-held demand that Urdu gain status as an official language in India.

"It is a welcome decision especially for Muslims, who prefer Urdu as a medium of language in competitive entrance tests," Muhammad Zakwan Nadwi 37, editor at Centre for Peace and Spirituality in New Delhi, told Khabar.

(Courtesy: Khabar South Asia)
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