‘Hijab Controversy’: How low can this country and its system stoop?
On the day, when we worshipped Goddess Saraswati – goddess of learning, wisdom and music, and celebrated knowledge, that very day we witnessed immense amount of toxicity in the society too.
Students are, now, made part of communal hatred. This crosses all limits as it includes students.
What is this Hijab controversy?
Well, it started with Udipi college banning entry of six students with Hijab.
This ban spread to some other colleges as well. Some news channels reported, while some didn’t. Videos showed students pleading in front of a school administration to let them join classes.
Until yesterday, they were welcomed, and now suddenly, they aren’t. School administration says that the girls violated school uniform code.
Students, however disagree and maintain that it is within the code of conduct.
There are two angles to this controversy: Legal and Political. What’s even more saddening is that the legal angle is being used for political gains. There are a few who have been trying to scratch open the healing cracks. A few days ago, there were issues with praying namaz in the open, with consumption of a particular meat, and now this Hijab issue which broke out at a government college in Karnataka’s another coastal city Kundapura, which makes it to the headlines.
The legal aspect of the case: Article 25(1) of the constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, propagate religion”. The State should ensure that there is no obstruction to this very basic right.
But there are a few reasonable restrictions even with the fundamental rightssuch as public order, morality and health, which shouldn’t be compromised in the process. So, the first question that arises here is – Does wearing of Hijab harm decency, morality or disturb public order or health?
Now, what are the things that are allowed in the name of religion? Since 1954, the Supreme Court have been attempting to set a precedent when it said that only the essential practices will be protected by the Constitution, and the rest can be ignored. And this tradition of preserving essential rituals and practices has been prevailing since ages.
Hijab is considered as a fundamental aspect of Islam and has been observed across fields – be it in the subsequent court rulings and the international cases.
Hence, even in a lot of armed forces, police forces, airline industries, Hijab is a legally allowed and exempted permission that is given as it is considered as an integral part of a particular religion. It’s not like one day you suddenly decide to wear it out of the blue.
Let’s understand what makes these turn of events so confusing, and why students are being used. In 2004, Ananda Marga sect was not allowed to perform tandava dance in public street because Supreme Court observed that it was not particular to the sect and not essential to the religion itself. In a more controversial judgement in 2016, a Muslim airman was discharged by Indian Air Force (IAF) for keeping a beard. Supreme Court upheld the decision as keeping beard was not an essential practice to the religion. This is a complicated matter, but it is being misused.
What does law say as far as Hijab is concerned? In 2015, a petition challenged dress code for all India pre medical exam which prescribed wearing “light clothes with half sleeves not allowed”.
Kerala High Court directed the CBSE to put additional measures for checking students who “intend to wear a dress according to their religious custom, but contrary to the dress code”, to strike a balance. In 2018, there was a different verdict when father wanted his daughters to wear headscarf as well as full sleeves, and school refuses.
At that time Kerala High Court said, “collective rights of an institution should be given primacy over individual rights of the petitioner.” This request was not further examined or escalated as the girls dropped out of that school. Single judge bench orders can be reversed, as happened in Delhi – being alone in a car without mask is no longer offence; previously it was upheld by single judge bench. Now, Delhi HC says, it’s an absurd order.
The political exploitation of the case: The girls are oblivious to why they are suddenly not allowed to enter into the college premise. Some media reports claim that colleges are pressurized to do so. But legally, if Hijab is a problem, questions will also be raised about mangalsutra, bindi, turban, cross etc. and, it will then remain an open-ended question. The strength of our country is unity in diversity; so tolerate a little bit of diversity – it is not harming anybody.
If wearing of Hijab was a serious issue, it would be talked about internationally. But it has become a consensus now – in New Zealand, police officers, pilots are seen adorning Hijab. It is a matter of tolerating diversity. But somewhere or the other, political exploitation was inevitable. However, dresses and prayers in parliament are not a problem, but this is. But WHY?
Some kind of experimentations are noticed in every nook and corner whether it is – the meat shops in Ghaziabad or namaz row in Gurgaon, or Hijab in Karnataka. Rather than a legal route, these open-ended issues are resolved abruptly by threatening the colleges, closing the gates, making sudden announcements. These doesn’t benefit anyone, the country especially.
It’s even bizarre to think that not long ago, we used to know our friends by their first names. Their caste, creed, culture, clothing and so on did not matter. But, what happened yesterday was gut-wrenching – students in Karnataka turned up in Saffron scarves on the streets to humiliate their classmates from a minority community who wear Hijab as a part of their cultural identity. The more you think about it, the more sad it gets.
That wasn’t a protest, rather a full-fledged, pre-planned majoritarian bullying on full display. These girls are being forced into humiliating their own friends. These are the visuals of a nation eating itself. With this type of segregation, now, at schools and colleges, students against students, we are competing at par with the British who played divide and rule within the country.
In fact, we are hell bent in achieving what the Englishmen couldn’t – divide the country to pieces. This irredeemable disgrace that we are now destined to become can only end very badly for all of us. Fixing the social fabric from here will be as easy as fixing a crack in a broken mirror. Sigh!
But, what can this division even accomplish for students? Is this worth it? Perhaps, it is being done to keep us occupied in turmoil, to keep the citizen in you away from asking about unemployment, per capita GDP of the country and Bangladesh, etc. To ignore the problems related to economy, skill, inflation, trade deficit, etc., Hijab is the centre of attention now.
What does all of these controversies/stunts mean at the end? NOTHING! And if you still think otherwise, you must have given up on your critical thinking already.
NOTE: I, personally, may not stand by this choice/idea of Hijabin general, but I will always speak, write and fight for their freedom of choice in all respects. There’s nothing more devastating than seeing women being made to turn against women from their own class and friend circles. If you teach your children politics of hate, it will strip you and them off of humanity, and you will spend the rest of your life apologising to your conscience. Speak up while there’s still time.
Images from different sources
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