The controversy over whether girls should be allowed to wear head scarves or hijabs while attending school or college, has now developed into a major political issue. Passions have been aroused on this issue and attempts made to divide people on communal lines.
The hijab issue began to be highlighted in the media following the decision of authorities of a government college in coastal Karnataka to deny students wearing hijab entry into classrooms. Women students in the college began a protest in January 2022 against this decision. This was followed by various incidents of harassment of women students wearing hijab in many towns of Karnataka, accompanied by vicious communal and divisive propaganda, by various state agencies and social media platforms, directed against the Muslim community.
On 5th February, the Karnataka government imposed a ban on wearing hijab in schools and colleges. This was done in the name of maintaining “equality, integrity and public order”. Responding to petitions filed by students seeking permission to wear hijab inside the classroom, the Karnataka High Court held its hearings from 10th February to 14th March. In its judgement on 14th March, the High Court upheld the government’s order of 5th February, banning the wearing of hijab within school and college premises.
The institutional ban on wearing hijab in schools and colleges is an outright attack on the right to conscience. It is an attack on the right of women of the Muslim community, to dress in accordance with their customs and traditions.
Indian society consists of people following various religions, belonging to different nations and nationalities, speaking different languages and having diverse cultures, customs and traditions, with a very wide variety of preferences of food and dress. People have every right to wear their preferred form of dress. There is absolutely no justification for declaring this as a threat to “equality, integrity and public order”. It is a complete falsehood to declare this as a “threat” to society, because it does not affect the rights of any other section of the people.
Preventing women students from attending school and college wearing hijab is, at the same time, an attack on their right to education. A further attack by the State on Muslim girls who wear hijab is the propaganda that the Muslim community is placing the hijab as a priority over educating their daughters. This baseless propaganda is being carried through the monopoly controlled media and by official spokespersons of the ruling class. Neither the girls who want to wear hijab, nor their families see any contradiction between chosing to wear hijab and at the same time wanting to be educated. It is the authority, by its decree banning hijab in schools and colleges, that is guity of forcing girls and their families to give up education if they want to follow their right to wear hijab, or give up their right to conscience, if they want education.
The hijab controversy is yet another conscious and deliberate attempt by the ruling class and its state to divide society as a whole, and in particular student youth on the basis of religion and culture, as well to divert them from the real source of the manifold problems facing them.
Across the country, youth are out on the streets in huge numbers, demanding good quality affordable school and university education, jobs and security of livelihood; workers and peasants are demanding their right to livelihood; people are restless about the steep escalation in prices of all goods and services. The ruling class is always trying its best to break our unity and divert us from the real source of our problems. Stirring up the hijab controversy and keeping it simmering is one more such attempt. The source of our problems is the rule of the biggest monopoly corporate houses, implemented through the government of one or another of their trusted political parties.
The creation of the hijab controversy and the state ban on hijab in educational institutions deserve to be unequivocally condemned.