Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, April 4, 2022

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Recently, a full bench of the Karnataka high court upheld the ban on wearing hijab in school and college classrooms.

“We are of the considered opinion that wearing of Hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith,” Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi said, reading out portions of the order.

The Court is reported to have said that a uniform is a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a).

The bench also upheld the earlier government order which had banned wearing clothes ‘which disturb equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges’.

The college authorities were backed by the state government which contended in court that the hijab was not an essential religious practice of Islam, and banning it in classrooms did not violate the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

The controversy over whether girls should be allowed to wear headscarves or hijabs while attending school or college, has now developed into a major issue. Passions have been aroused and there is a real danger of the country spiralling into yet another danger of a communal conflagration.

The ban on wearing hijab in schools and colleges is an outright attack on the right to conscience. It is an attack on the right of women of the Muslim community, to dress in accordance with their customs and traditions. It appears that the honourable High Court has sidestepped the important question of right to religion and right to conscience. It has opted for a pragmatic decision on the issue.

The ban has brought forth several inconsistencies in the Constitutional guarantees on the right to religion and the right to conscience.

Indian society is a medley of people belonging to different religions, regions and nationalities. They speak a number of languages and follow varied customs and traditions. Across the country one comes across a kaleidoscope of cuisine, dress and festivals. People wear different head dresses and robes and carry religious marks. In declaring a particular dress as a ‘threat to equality, integrity and public order’ may seem to be a badly thought-out move by the ruling elite. But, in reality, it is a part of the concerted attempts of the powers-that-be and their government to keep Indian society festering with communal tensions so that people do not unite and claim their right to run the affairs of the country. It is a targeted attack on people of the Muslim faith who have been all along protesting against the oppression and discrimination being meted out to them.

Preventing entry in educational institutions to women wearing hijab, contrary to removing a threat to equality, actually forces them to stay at home depriving them of the right to education. The central and state governments have turned truth on its head by arguing that Muslim parents give more priority to hijab than to the education of their girls, while in reality it is they who had unilaterally and unjustly declared that hijab violates integrity and public order. In this case, it is clearly the authority which has endangered the right to education and not the parents.

The hijab controversy is yet another conscious and deliberate attempt by the ruling class and its state to divide society as a whole, and in particular student youth on the basis of religion and culture, as well to divert them from the real source of the manifold problems facing them.

The controversy also brings to light that rights are not really guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. A government can overturn these rights in the name of imposing ‘reasonable restrictions’ to maintain ‘equality, integrity and public order’.

While millions of youth are yearning for good and affordable quality education, jobs and security of livelihood, the ruling circles have been unable and incapable of addressing these pressing issues. In order to cover up the fact that ruling governments serve only the greed of the big multinationals and not the need of the people, they organise such attacks on the rights of people from time to time and fabricate communal divisions to prevent people from uniting together.

The communal hate mongering and the state ban on hijab in educational institutions deserve to be unequivocally condemned.

By admin