Saturday, 13 July, 2024

Row Over Hijab

Bini Dahal

Freedom and rights might be the most commonly used words in the 21st century. We have evolved in such a manner that the existence of freedom and fundamental rights equals our own existence. This can be felt in the ongoing Hijab row of Karnataka in India.

The State Government of Karnataka recently came up with a new law which calls for discipline in regard with uniforms worn by school and college students. This provision became an issue when college authorities stopped five girls from entering the classes. Their logic being, Hijab was not a part of the uniform and that as students they have to abide by the college rules.

On the other side are the girls belonging to Muslim community. Already a month has passed and the college has prevented them from entering into the classes. Belonging to a Muslim community, it is their religious right to wear Hijab and that they do not see the clothing causing any sort of problem to uniform discipline.

Unable to bear the ignorant behaviour of the college authorities, the girls have filed a petition in the Supreme Court for justice. However, the court as for now has transferred the case to a larger bench. Protests have started emerging around the Indian state. To control the situation, the government has announced a three-day holiday for the schools and colleges. The government authority has also barred conducting any form of protest near the 200-metre radius of educational institutions.

All people, including the legal experts, are divided in this matter. Some state that the idea of uniforms has come up to ensure unity among the students of different backgrounds and cultures in the school. They point out differences in uniforms can lead to groupism that can cause more suffering to the country. The other lot of legal experts have a different viewpoint on this. They do not see any issue in Muslim girls wearing Hijab. According to them, the Indian Constitution ensures everyone a fundamental right to freely profess, practice and propagate their individual religion.

A common ground has to be found where neither the government’s uniform policy nor the freedom of the Muslim women is breached. However, for now all of these issues on religion and clothing should not prevent the students from attaining education. That is a grave mistake happening on the side of the college authority. Educational freedom of the student should not be taken away in the name of uniform rules.
Religion has become a big factor for the outset of any conflict. This is evident not just in India but in other parts of the world as well. The Hijab debate has to be resolved at any cost. The state government, educationists and the Muslim minorities should come together and have a proper conversation.

As long as proper discussions do not take place, every party will try its best to prove its own point. This way, the issue will escalate without any solution at the end. The larger bench of the Supreme Court will now look at the case and hopefully come up with a verdict soon. What all remains to be seen is how the bench will handle the issue.