Hijab-wearing students faced harassment, ban affecting their education: Report

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Hijab-wearing students as they sit outside college gate after being denied entry in Karnataka in February 2022. [Photo: Twitter/ iffathfathima6]

Karnataka: As the Supreme Court of India continues to hear petitions challenging the Karnataka high court’s decision to uphold a ban on the hijab, a report submitted by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) titled Impact of Hijab Ban in Karnataka’s Educational Institutions, highlighted human rights violations, including bullying of hijab-wearing students and harassment of female students by Hindu students and visitors.

A hostile environment was being created by Hindu protesters wearing saffron shawls, and hate speeches (in public displays of clothing or through electronic media) were being made on a daily basis that led the Muslim students wearing hijab to suffer, the 43-page report said, adding what happened inside and outside the schools was mostly ignored by the media on campuses.

The report quoting students said they were not being given attendance by the authorities. Even if they were on campus, they were not allowed inside.

It also explained how hijab-wearing students in the Raichur district were deeply affected by the aftermath of the hijab ban, so much so that they faced hostility from fellow students who supported right-wing groups.

“Muslim women are horrified by the space called a classroom. Our respondents told us that they now call each other before going to college and enter in groups alone as it is ‘very frightening’ to enter campus alone,” the report read.

The report also outlined administrative lapses on part of police, college administrators, and community members and the different ways through which the judgment-affected parties were excluded. PUCL also criticised the College Development Committee (CDC) and its lack of a democratic structure.

“Without any definite methods of accountability or representation for local stakeholders, CDCs frequently behaved as authoritarian institutions,” the report mentioned.

Police presence on college campuses created a climate of terror among students who were wearing hijabs and frequently prevented local residents from expressing their discontent and they were also deputed to ensure that the law was followed, rather than to protect the students, the report stated.

PUCL highlighted the vilification campaign against the students that occurred before the issue of the interim order by the Court as well as the participation of the government apparatus in campaigns to exclude Muslim women, after the issue of the interim order.

One of the report’s main recommendations is that the notification authorizing the prohibition of the wearing of the hijab, be immediately rescinded.

Other recommendations are the issue of a directive to the government to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into lost academic years and expenses incurred as a result of this order and ensure that compensation to the women and their families are paid. It also urged that the court issue a directive to hold CDCs of colleges accountable for overstepping their mandate.

Pertinently, the report comes at a time when the Supreme Court of India is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Hijab ban in Karnataka government educational institutions.

On Wednesday, a counsel representing one of the petitioners’ asked the apex court how a secular administration, allowing others to wear bindi, kada, or cross, could restrict Muslim students’ fundamental right to choose to wear Hijab, in addition to prescribed uniforms.


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