The ‘hijab’ controversy has come to a boil in Karnataka for more than a month now, but people are still unaware of the machinations by some radical outfits in stoking this issue. In my earlier blogs, I had mentioned Popular Front of India (PFI) and its student wing, Campus Front of India, as the main instigators. On Thursday, PFI and its students’ wing organized Unity March in Kota, Rajasthan. Similar marches were also organized in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in which SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India) and PFI supporters took part.
Watching the speeches made by PFI and other leaders at these protests, it appears that the controversy is gaining currency because of underlying politics, design and agenda. The target is clear: to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, as assembly elections are under way in Uttar Pradesh.
The PFI meet in Kota, Rajasthan, was organized under the banner “Democracy Bachao”, but most of the speeches by leaders centred around the issue of ‘hijab’ and the religious rights of Muslim girls. Along with the ‘hijab’ issue, speakers took the opportunity to strike fear in the mind of Muslims by raising bogeys like RSS, Ram Mandir, CAA(Citizenship Amendment Act) and NRC (National Register of Citizens) issues. In the guise of religion, the speakers tried their best to mislead Muslim women and girls. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat were also targeted by speakers.
The PFI meet in Kota was given permission by the Congress government in Rajasthan. Former Congress Rajya Sabha member Obaidullah Khan Azmi was one of the speakers. After taking out a “Unity March” procession, the protesters were addressed by PFI, SDPI and other Muslim leaders. PFI secretary general Anees Ahmed set the tone of speeches, saying “today they are asking our girls to take off the hijab, tomorrow they will demand something else.” He raised the Ayodhya Ram temple issue, and compared RSS with the international terrorist organization Islamic State(ISIS). “Both RSS and ISIS have radical ideologies”, he said. Anees Ahmed alleged that the ban on wearing of hijab in schools and colleges amounts to interference in the personal choice of minorities.
Wajida Parveen, head of the women’s wing of PFI in Rajasthan, National Women’s Front, alleged that Muslims in India are facing persecution since 2014 when the Modi government came to power. Syed Sarwar Chishti, the khadim of Ajmer Khwaja Mohiuddin Chishti dargah shrine, said, “Allahu Akbar slogan is a forceful one. When Muskaan Khan, the college student in Mandya raised Allahu Akbar slogan, those men wearing saffron shawls ran away. If they raise Jai Shree Ram slogan, our slogan should be Allahu Akbar”. Sarwar Chishti also alleged that Prime Minister Modi “is telling lies”. He also criticized NSA Ajit Doval in his speech.
SDPI vice-president Mohammed Shafi, in his speech, threw a challenge at UP CM Yogi Adityanath for his ‘garmi utaar denge’ remark. Yogi, during one of his election speeches, had said that his government would take disruptors to task after the polls. Mohammed Shafi said, “Yogi must know that we Muslims have more heat than that of the Sun”. He also said, “if we continue to get threats from Hindutva leaders, like they did at the ‘dharma sansad’ in Haridwar and Raipur, then we know how to respond.”
Almost all speakers at the rally raised issues like hijab, CAA, NRC, and targeted Modi and Yogi. Their aim is clear: to prevent Muslim women from casting their votes in favour of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Modi, in one of his speeches in UP election rallies, had mentioned how by abolishing the Triple Talaq custom, he was getting the blessings of Muslim women, who are now living a peaceful life. Since then Muslim radical groups life PFI, CFI and SDPI have become active to instil fear about Modi in the minds of Muslim women. Similar trend was noticed during the Shaheen Bagh agitation in Delhi against CAA.
The ’hijab’ issue continues to roil Karnataka, and it is now spreading to Andhra Pradesh. On Thursday, Muslim girl students went to Loyola College in Vijaywada and demanded that they be allowed entry wearing ‘burqa’. Obviously, the college authorities disallowed their request. The authorities told them they can enter the campus wearing ‘burqa’, but inside classrooms, they will have to take the ‘burqa’ off. Two Muslim girls went away but other Muslim girls agreed and took off their ‘burqa’ inside the class.
The minority welfare department of Karnataka government, on Thursday, issued a circular directing all schools and colleges run by it to strictly implement the High Court order, and restrain all students from wearing hijab, shawls, saffrom scares and religious flags inside classrooms. It is applicable to all residential schools, colleges and English Medium schools run by the department.
At Vijaya para medical college in Belgavi, Karnataka, Muslim girls insisted on wearing ‘hijab’ inside classrooms, but were asked to remove them or go to a separate room. Other Muslim boys joined the protest, and after an altercation, local police took several youths into custody. Muslim students of DVS College in Shivmogga, Karnataka, also insisted on hearing ‘hijab’, and on being stopped, they took out a protest march to the district collectorate where they submitted a memorandum.
I suspect that some vested interests are trying to convert a local issue into a national one on the question of wearing hijab in schools and colleges. Protagonists of ‘hijab’ are giving varied arguments in their favour.
Sometimes they say, it is a personal choice of Muslim girls and in any ban on their personal choice amounts to interference in their liberty, while others say, it is a Quranic injunction, though there is no mention of the word ‘hijab’ in the holy book. Yet, there are many Muslim girls, who are themselves going to schools and colleges, without hijab, and are taking part in pre-Board examinations. Another argument raised is about why Indian women are allowed to wear ‘ghunghat’.
This is only an attempt to obfuscate the issue. Not a single Hindu girl goes to any school or college wearing ‘ghunghat’. Every student has to follow the rules and etiquette of uniform in educational institutions. The rules of uniform do not discriminate against ‘hijab’ and give special preference to ‘ghunghat’. The matter is before the high court, and the three-judge bench has to hear arguments from all sides, before giving its verdict. One should exercise patience and wait for the court to give its judgement.
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