Karnataka over the last few years has seen a notable increase in Muslim girls enrolling for higher education. Paradigm shift in girls from Minority and Dalit communities joining the higher education system is desirable, encouraging and progressive too. On one hand government is promoting Beti Bachao Beti Padhao on the other it is letting loose the fringe elements to target girls for their traditional/cultural/religious choices seems like a well-planned political game to create distraction from real issues.
For long, girls from Muslim community wearing a Hijab or boys from Sikh community wearing Turban or girls from Sikh community covering head with scarf and attending school or college was perfectly fine, until a college in Udupi in Karnataka decided to force the girls out of college for wearing Hijab. What was supposed to be a conversation between the college and the girls turned ugly as Hindutva brigade found a prefect occasion to push their political agenda, and the Revenue Minister of Govt of Karnataka went a step ahead to say that Hijab is a major poll issue for 2023.
The choice of practicing a religion is a Constitutional Right that is guaranteed to everyone in India, when countries across the world are making Hijab and Turban part of uniform in their police force, armed forces, medical services to promote diversity and inclusiveness, the voices against the girls wearing Hijab in a college not only aimed to create divide in the society but also is a misplaced priority given that government schools and colleges are suffering from lack of quality infrastructure and teachers.
Propaganda against Hijab in Karnataka is aggressively pushed by the Hindutva groups to raise communal tempers, but it goes far beyond the ugly communal motive, in reality it is a serious issue of Women Rights and Hindutva groups are always known to be anti-Women.
The High Court in its interim order had specified that their interim order is only applicable for the colleges which has uniform and where CDC has prescribed a dress code. Visuals of colleges and schools forcing the young girls and even teachers to remove their Hijab outside school/college premises was not only violation of the High Court interim order but most importantly it striped away privacy and dignity of the girls/women in full public glare.
Journalist chasing young girls with Hijab for a reaction and unruly mob of boys jeering girls who walked into the college premises wearing a Hijab proved yet again how unsafe girls/women when bigotry takes over. TV debates on Hijab were dominated by men from certain fringe groups who are known to be anti-women, screaming undignified and unjustified remarks and making a mockery of Women Rights.
‘Break the Bias’ the theme of 2022 International Women’s Day seems more appropriate for Karnataka. Discrimination of women for their choices, identity and for who they are is unacceptable in any civilized society. Hijab is not only a personal choice it’s a matter of privacy of Muslim women. Whatever may be the argument Hijab is about Women Rights, and no Communal agenda should be tolerated when it comes to Rights.
It is also reassuring to see the girls/women being assertive and unapologetic about who they are, as they continue to wear Hijab with Pride. “Hijab covers my Hair not my Brain”, a sharp reply to the preying media by a young Muslim girl reaffirms her determination to fight back for her Constitutional Rights.
Humanity is the Greatest Faith, and no Religion in the world teaches Violence, Hate and Intolerance.
Activist, AICC Member & KPCC Spokesperson
(views expressed are in personal capacity)