THE CONTROVERSY relating to wearing of hijab by Muslim girls in a Karnataka college, which appears to be part of a campaign to vitiate the communal harmony, has very dangerous portents for the country. It reflects the fast spreading virus of communalism in our society and how a section of youth are getting influenced by such rhetoric.
If it was just a question of college banning hijab or prescribing a dress code or even taking the argument that it was a regressive practice, it would have been a different issue altogether. However, a section of students wearing saffron scarfs and shouting slogans of Jai Shri Ram, with videos of the event circulating on social media and television channels, give it a totally different dimension.
This blatant show of saffron scarfs and shouting of slogans make it a much bigger and sinister issue. It’s not about hijab, it’s about bigotry and downright communalism.
Why were orders issued by the college authorities to ban hijab suddenly when the practice was allowed all these years? Importantly how wearing or not wearing hijab interferes with the delivery of education. How was it interfering with the rights of others who were not wearing hijab?
The fact that the virus is spreading fast and can lead to communal flare ups is evident from the fact that the protests have already spread to various parts of Karnataka which has now forced the state government to order closure of educational institutions for three days.
As per the latest reports even the Madhya Pradesh education minister has expressed himself in favour of banning hijab from educational institutions in the name of religious discrimination.
The question is can an educational institution deny its students the right to education and jeopardise their future in the name of enforcing a dress code? Who decides what are essential religious practices?
What if some educational institution bans entry of Sikh students wearing Patka or Turban or a Christian student wearing a cross?
This argument about uniformity can be even stretched to the practise of offering prayers in educational institutions run by minorities like the Christians.
It’s about the right of women to choose. If anyone wants to wear a Hijab or a Burkha, it’s her choice. No one can force or compel them to wear this or that even if some people think it is a bad choice. The so-called thekedars of society cannot impose ‘modernity’ on people.
Ironically the doors of educational institutions are being closed on women who are struggling to come out of the shackles of the fundamentalists. The best bet for ending of regressive practices is to provide good education and not to deny them entry.
The Karnataka high court has taken cognisance of the ugly developments that took place in a college near Bengaluru and would hopefully come with a direction soon. But what is more worrying is the spread of poison in the society.
Unfortunately none of the senior BJP leaders in the state or the centre have come forward to condemn the incidents. It is this conspiracy of silence that fuels the fire of communalism and divide in the society. We all shall have to pay a very heavy price for this stance taken by our leaders.
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