India: Hijab row escalates further with school closures
By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI (AA): The government of India’s southern state of Karnataka on Tuesday announced the closure of all high schools and colleges for the next three days as a row continues over the wearing of the hijab, or headscarf, by Muslim girls in classrooms.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has asked the students, teachers and people of Karnataka to maintain peace and harmony.
“I have ordered the closure of all high schools and colleges for next three days. All concerned are requested to cooperate,” he said on Twitter.
The issue started when female Muslim students were barred last month from entering their classrooms at a government college in Udupi district in Karnataka because they were wearing the hijab.
Karnataka Congress President DK Shivakumar deplored the situation at some educational institutions in the state.
“The situation in some Karnataka educational institutions has gone so out of hand that in one case the National flag was replaced by a saffron flag. I think the affected institutions should be closed for a week to restore law and order. Teaching can continue online,” he said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, a hijab-wearing student at a college in the city of Mandya was heckled by members of a right-wing Hindu group who chanted “Jai Sri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram). The girl responded by raising her hand and shouting back “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great).
Members of the right-wing Hindu group could be seen heckling the woman in hijab on the college premises in a video that was widely shared on social media.
“How brave these men are and how macho they must feel while targeting a lone young lady! Hatred for Muslims has been completely mainstreamed and normalized in India today,” said former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah while commenting on the video in a tweet.
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday heard petitions filed by women who were not allowed to attend classes because of hijab restrictions. The hearing will continue tomorrow.
The court has asked students and the public at large to maintain peace.
In the capital New Delhi, opposition parties staged a walkout of the Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament on Tuesday in protest over the Karnataka hijab row.
– What does the constitution say?
According to the Indian constitution, every citizen has the right to practice, profess and propagate religion. This right can be curtailed only on grounds of public order, morality and health.
Indian Muslims have witnessed a deterioration of the right to practice their faith under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
[Photo: Muslim student federation hold play cards during a demonstration after some educational institutes in the southern Indian state of Karnataka denied entry to students for wearing hijabs on February 8, 2022. Photographer: Amarjeet Kumar Singh/AA]
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