Over 500 legal professionals affirm ‘unconditional support’ to Karnataka Muslim students

Muslim students outside college gate as they were denied entry with Hijab. [Photo: Twitter/ iffathfathima6]

Strongly condemn ‘violation of constitutional rights’ 

Karnataka: Amid the wide criticism that the Government of India faces for not letting the Muslim students cover their heads with Hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka, over 500 lawyers, law students, and other legal professionals have strongly condemned “the violation of constitutional rights” in an open letter with total 765 signatories.

The legal professionals affirmed their “full and unconditional support” to the Muslim students in Karnataka protesting for their right to education and religious freedom.

The law students, legal academics, and lawyers practicing in different jurisdictions of the country raise their concern about the interim order of the Karnataka High Court that imposes a blanket ban on all religious dress within the classrooms, Maktoob Media reported.

These professionals say they recognize the public humiliation of Muslim students and staff who were coerced to unveil on the streets to enter educational institutions as the direct result of the implementation of the interim order.

The disdain for this negation of the agency of Muslim women remains the underlying tone of the open letter as it reads “this disrobing of Muslim girls and women in public view is inhuman, derogatory and an affront to the Constitution and amounts to the public humiliation of the entire community. We hang our heads in shame as having failed in protecting their basic right to life with dignity.”

While citing Amnah Bint Basheer v. Central Board of Secondary Education where the Kerala High Court decided that Hijab is an essential religious practice protected under Article 25 of the constitution, the legal professionals accentuate that “the issue at stake here pertain not only to the rights recognized in Article 25 but also more foundationally to the Fundamental Rights of the students under the golden triangle of Articles 14, 19 and 21, read with the specific protection against discrimination in Article 15.” They also stated that the denial of education merely on the grounds of wearing a Hijab is an unreasonable and disproportionate restriction on their rights.

Opposing the restriction on the rights of Muslim women, they iterated that “the imposition of an absolute uniformity contrary to the autonomy, privacy and dignity of Muslim women is unconstitutional. By virtue of this women have the right to choose to wear hijab, and equally, to choose against the imposition of hijab.”

They locate the current attack on the rights of Muslim women as a part of the prevalent communal polarization not only in Karnataka but extending throughout the entire nation. Due to the alarming aggravation of religious apartheid and majoritarian violence against members of marginalized communities, the legal professionals have urged all stakeholders to appropriately contextualize the exclusion of Muslim girls in schools and colleges.

The letter reads “It must be remembered that the background within which these educational institutions have denied entry to girls wearing hijabs is one of increasing Islamophobia and violence against Muslims, including open calls for genocide, social and economic boycotts, and attacks against inter-faith couples.”

Some of the prominent signatories of the open letter are Anjana Prakash (Ex High Court judge), Amar Saran (Ex High Court judge), C.S. Dwarakanath (Ex-Chairperson, Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission), Sanjay Parikh (Senior Advocate), Mihir Desai (Senior Advocate), Ashok Agarwal (Senior Advocate), Gayatri Singh (Senior Advocate), Pratiksha Baxi (Professor and Author), Vrinda Grover (Supreme Court Lawyer), Saumya Uma (Professor), Meera Sanghamitra (Activist and law graduate), Poornima Hatti (Partner, Samvad Partners ), Shahrukh Alam (Supreme Court Lawyer), Arundhati Katju (Supreme Court Advocate) D Geetha (Labor Lawyer, Chennai) Muralidhara (Senior labor Lawyer), Arvind Narrain (Lawyer and Author), Jhuma Sen (Professor and Legal Academic), and Clifton D’Rozario (National Convener, AILAJ).


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