In last week of December 2021, six students, wearing hijab, were prevented from attending the classes in a pre-university college in Udupi, Karnataka. On 2nd January 2022, parents of these students along with some activists protested against the college for denying entry to the students wearing hijab for three days. “The rule is being followed to ensure uniformity in classrooms,” the Principal had said. In a matter of few days, similar acts of religious discrimination were seen in various colleges of Karnataka.
After ‘Bulli Bai’, here we are amidst another propaganda targeting Muslim women. ‘Right to Education’ is an Indian’s fundamental right, as much as ‘Right to Freedom of Religion.’ To oppose these girls, students portraying Hindutva mindset came out to protest, wearing saffron shawls. Hence there came a perfect excuse to make this an issue to spread communal hatred.
Not one, but two fundamental rights are being violated at the same time and the National President of Rashtriya Hindu Sena, Pramod Muthalik had the audacity to attack the Muslim students: “This obduracy has the mindset of taking them (students) to the level of a terrorist. Now they say Hijab, next they will ask for Burqa (veil), further they will insist on Namaz and mosque. Is this a school or your religious center?” he told reporters here. “What I say is that without giving chance for public debate, they (students asking for Hijab) should be issued a transfer certificate and kicked out. This mindset is most dangerous,” Muthalik said.
The deep-rooted patriarchal outlook amongst the Indians always direct them to accuse women—whether for their dressing sense or any other choice they made for themselves. The latest trend is to apply communal angle in every issue, and this time there is support of the younger generation.
A Hindu man wearing saffron robes can be the chief minister of an Indian state but a Muslim student can’t attend her classes wearing hijab? In numerous schools, there have been practices such as reciting shlokas in prayers, invoking Hindu deities in various events, etc. Was any of it ever alleged to be “alienation on religious grounds”? It’s a shame that people of India are still being blind to the politics behind the veil of ‘dress code’. Because, lets be honest, it was never about a headscarf. The Muslim women did not just wake up and decided to go to their schools wearing hijabs. It’s a legacy going on for ages. So why these ministers and principals did suddenly realize about uniformity not being followed?
On 8th February 2022, a video went viral on social media showing a student in hijab being heckled by a mob of Hindu men wearing saffron scarves. The boys were heckling their scarves at the girl and chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ were thrown at her for wearing hijab. The girl did not back down from the bullying mob and replied to them with her own chants of ‘Allah-hu-Akbar’. On one hand, the girl is being praised for standing up to the mob; on the other side, this has triggered the Hindutva mindsets, who are now crying that how their religious chant is considered dangerous. They very well know, why it happened.
The authorities of the colleges think hijab as a ‘sign of oppression’ but to them, Muslim students being bullied by other students is justifiable. A meeting was conveyed by the Kundapura BJP MLA, Haladay Srinivas Shetty during which it was decided to ban entry of students wearing the hijabs. According to them, hijab is a ‘religious symbol’ which should not be allowed in schools or colleges.
“This is complete discrimination. Denying someone their constitutional right is completely wrong”: Asaduddin Owaisi, Lok Sabha MP on Karnataka hijab ban. “These girls have been wearing hijab for a long time. What is wrong in it? How is it disturbing anyone?” he added.
‘Right to Freedom of Religion’ incorporates the right to opt for one’s religious attire. India is a secular state, and every citizen born here irrespective of their religion, is an Indian. Hijab ban is another step to target and demean Muslim women; as the haters’ misogynist thinking makes them believe that it will be easier to destroy the female section of the community. Well, we are not going to bow down.
Sana Perween is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Zaina Shahid Khan