The controversy over headscarves has intensified in Karnataka on Tuesday as the police resorted to lathi-charge and teargas shells to control violent right-wing mobs protesting against Muslim women wearing hijabs in colleges. Karnataka CM Basavaraj S Bommai has ordered all schools and colleges to shut for the next three days.
Additionally, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai expressed concern and urged Indian leaders to stop marginalisation of Muslim women. The girls' education activist tweeted that "Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying. Objectification of women persists - for wearing less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalisation of Muslim women."
Here's all you need to know about the controversy:
- The hijab protests began last month on January 1 at the Government Girls PU College in Karnataka's Udupi when six students were barred from classes for wearing the headscarf. Right-wing groups in Udupi and Chikkamagaluru objected to Muslim girls wearing the hijab to class. The college management cited a new uniform policy behind the reason for the ban. The issue spread over to other government colleges in Udupi with several right- wing students protested in favour of a ban.
- Several videos surfaced on the internet, with one showing a mob hoisting a saffron flag in a college in Shimoga amidst chants of Jai Shri Ram. It is under investigation whether the Indian flag was replaced in the process.
- In another video, a burqa-clad Muslim student was heckled outside a college. The girl identified as Muskan told India today that she shouted 'Allah hu Akbar' in response to 'Jai Shri Ram' chants by those heckling her. The video showed a mob of saffron shawl-wearing men heckling her for coming to college wearing a burqa.
- In another worrying incident, a mob wearing saffron scarves raised slogans against Muslim girls at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College (MGM) in Udupi district. There were also a number of isolated incidents of stone pelting reported from Bagalkot, where the police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd and imposed Sec 144.
- Besides, the Karnataka High Court heard a batch of pleas by Muslim students against the hijab ban in classrooms. The petitioners' counsel submitted to the court that wearing the hijab is an essential religious practice and that the government had no jurisdiction to impose orders restricting the use of hijab. The court will continue to hear the case on Wednesday, February 9.
- Education Minister BC Nagesh has said students who insist on wearing hijab (head scarves) not be allowed into government educational institutions. He also ordered that women protesters be confined to a separate room of the colleges, raising concerns of segregation in educational institutions.
- Reacting to the controversy, opposition parties criticised the events unfolding in Karnataka. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi condemned the incident and said "I pray that our sisters fighting for their right to wear hijab are successful in their fight. This is a grave violation of the Constitution's Articles 15, 19 & 21, which is being committed in Karnataka. "
- Further, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said that the incident should be condemned unequivocally. "Indoctrinated young minds harassing a woman is not what Hindu, Hindutva, Hinduism is about," she said in a tweet.
- National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also tweeted and said that hatred for Muslims has been completely mainstreamed. "How brave these men are & how macho they must feel while targeting a lone young lady! Hatred for Muslims has been completely mainstreamed & normalised in India today."