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Activists decry headscarf ban in Indian State

February 1, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Protesters from various organisations take part in a demonstration in New Delhi on December 27, 2021, after the Indian police on December 24 said they have launched an investigation into an event where Hindu hardliners called for mass killings of minority Muslims. [SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images]

Barring students from wearing hijab or headscarf is an attack on the “symbols of faith,” said activists and experts in India, Anadolu News Agency reports.

For many weeks now, a group of Muslim women at a college in India’s southern state of Karnataka has been barred from attending classes while wearing the headscarf.

On World Hijab Day being marked on Tuesday, Fawaz Shaheen, the national secretary of the Students Islamic Organisation of India, the student wing of socio-religious organisation Jamaat-e-Islami, told Anadolu Agency that the institutions which have banned students from wearing hijab are doing an “unconstitutional act.”

“It is not sudden and has been happening now; it is connected to the “otherisation” of Muslims. We have seen such narratives for some time now,” he said. “Even cultural habits are being challenged. Such moves have basically attacked the symbols of faith and are happening continuously to polarise the society.”

The government of another state, Kerala, this week said that it cannot allow police cadets to wear hijab and full sleeves.

Shaheen noted that the wearing of hijab, or anything else, was a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

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Urging Indians to speak up, Shaheen said silence against such acts would mean an endorsement.

“The majority should speak … silence is not an option,” he said.

According to the Indian Constitution, every citizen has the right to practice, profess and propagate religion. This right can be curtailed only on grounds of public order, morality and health.

Last month, tensions erupted in another government college in Karnataka’s Balagadi village after a group of students turned up wearing saffron scarves – the colour favoured by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party  – and asked their female classmates from the Muslim community not to wear hijab during classes.

Subsequently, the authorities banned hijabs and saffron scarves on the campus.

New Delhi-based activist, Aysha Renna, told Anadolu Agency that such incidents were on the rise and all possible measure will be taken against it.

In Karnataka, the state government has said it will constitute a committee to formulate guidelines on uniforms at colleges.

Local Indian daily, The Indian Express, quoted State Education Minister, B. C Nagesh, as saying: “We will look into the court verdicts and what other states have done in such matters and will take steps. We have directed the colleges to follow the present rule till the government decides.”

Indian Muslims have witnessed a deterioration of the right to practice faith under the rule of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his right-wing BJP.