Indian court upholds classroom scarf ban in BJP governed Karnataka
Mar 15, 2022: An Indian court has upheld a ban on hijab in classrooms in the southern state of Karnataka, ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Ritu Raj Aswathi said in a judgment on Tuesday, “We are of the view that wearing hijab by Muslim women is not a necessary part of religious practice.”
He said the government had the power to prescribe uniform guidelines, dismissing various petitions challenging the order.
Students who had challenged the ban in court had said wearing the hijab was a fundamental right guaranteed under India’s constitution and an essential practice of Islam.
The ruling could set an example for the rest of the country, home to more than 200 million Muslims who have been targeted by the right-wing BJP and its Hindu-dominated allies since Modi came to power in 2014. The controversy erupted in January when a government school in Karnataka’s Adupi district barred hijab-wearing students from entering classrooms, sparking Muslim protests and Hindu student protests.
Similar restrictions were imposed on more schools and colleges in the state, and the state’s high court barred students from wearing the hijab until further notice.
In India, where Muslims make up 14% of the country’s 1.4 billion population, the hijab has historically been neither publicly prohibited nor restricted. The controversy has led to criticism that Muslims in the country are being further marginalized.
Ahead of the ruling, Karnataka authorities announced the closure of schools and colleges and imposed restrictions on public gatherings in some parts of the state to prevent possible disturbances.
Last month, Federal Interior Minister Amit Shah said he preferred students to cling to school uniforms rather than any religious attire.
Karnataka’s ban has sparked protests in other parts of the country and has drawn criticism from the U.S and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
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