India: Hardline Hindu groups demanding wider hijab ban after Karnataka verdict

India: Hardline Hindu groups demanding wider hijab ban after Karnataka verdict

Mar 16, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, hardliner Hindu groups in India are demanding restrictions on wearing the hijab in classrooms in more states after a court upheld a ban on the head-scarf in Karnataka state, worrying Muslim students who had protested against the ban.

The decision of the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, in support of the southern state’s ban on hijab in February, was also welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top federal ministers of the Hindu nationalist BJP who say students should refrain from wearing religious clothing.

“We are a Hindu nation and we do not want to see any kind of religious outfit in educational institutes of the country,” said Rishi Trivedi, president of the Hindu-first group Akhil Bharat Hindu MahaSabha.

“We welcome the court verdict and want the same rule to be followed throughout the country.”

There are no national guidelines on uniforms in India, and states often leave it to schools to decide what their students should wear.

The ban in BJP-ruled Karnataka sparked protests by Muslim students and parents and retaliation of the protests by Hindu students. Critics of the ban say it is another way to marginalize the Muslim community, which makes up about 13 percent of the 1.35 billion population of Hindu-majority India.

Leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an affiliate of the RSS, the main body of the BJP, said they had asked for a ban on hijab in Modi’s home state of Gujarat and that it would be done soon. He will write a letter to Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country. Both the states have BJP governments.

“The hijab is not allowed in the defence forces, police, and government offices, then why the insistence on hijab in schools and colleges?” said VHP’s Gujarat secretary, Ashok Raval. “It is an attempt to raise communal tensions.”

Ayesha Hajra Almas – who had challenged Karnataka’s ban in court and is now considering going to the country’s highest court to lift the ban – said there was a real fear that the ban on hijab would become national. The 18-year-old said she had not been to school since late December when authorities stopped Muslim girls from wearing the hijab, even before the statewide ban in early February.

“Increasingly, we feel we are living in an India where its citizens are not treated equally,” Almas said from the Karnataka district of Udupi, from where the protests began.

“I am fighting for myself, fighting for my sisters, fighting for my religion. I’m scared that there will be changes like this in the whole country. But I hope it does not happen.”

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