Hindu nationalist politics seeps into schools, endangering hijab-wearing Muslim women's education.
A government-run high school in India seeks to set a precedent on whether Muslim girls can attend school with a hijab.
Weeks of protests by six teenage students will come to a head when the high court in the southern Indian state of Karnataka will hear two petitions that argue that Muslim women should attend classes even if they are wearing the hijab.
Videos on social media emerged of Muslim women having the school gates shut in their faces as they attempted to enter the school.
Scenes of young female students crying and pleading with the school to allow them to enter the premises with months to go before exams that could decide their future went viral, sparking a heated debate.
Deplorable scenes unfolding in Karnataka, another govt college not allowing Girls with #hijab to enter classrooms. The students are crying and requesting the principal not to ruin their future with just 2 months to go for exams. pic.twitter.com/sYJzTsLuuX— Deepak Bopanna (@dpkBopanna) February 3, 2022
According to one observer, some students in the school linked with right-wing Hindu organisations came to school wearing saffron shawls, a symbol of Hindu nationalist groups, and protested against the girls wearing hijab - a demand that the school has now given into.
Watch : Gates being closed on the future of these students in Kundapura govt college. pic.twitter.com/g1CzWVDyTk— Deepak Bopanna (@dpkBopanna) February 3, 2022
One Indian politician condemned the move saying that "Muslims girls are being denied the right to education," and the latest anti-Muslim move was part of a broader attempt at "legitimizing the marginalization of Muslims."
"The government cannot thrust its decision on different religions as every religion has its own teachings. Nobody can be forced to refrain from following religious obligations," added the politician.
Another prominent Indian politician, Shashi Tharoor, said that India is not France, adding that "there is no law banning religious forms of dress like a Sikh turban or a crucifix around your neck or a tilak on the forehead all of which are forbidden in France's government schools but permitted in India's."
Tharoor added if the hijab was banned, why not other religious symbols.
"It's been a strength of India that everyone is free to wear what they want. If the hijab is disallowed, what about the Sikh turban? The Hindu's forehead mark? The Christian's crucifix? This college is going down a slippery slope. Let the girls in," said Tharoor on social media.
It's been a strength of India that everyone is free to wear what they want. If the hijab is disallowed, what about the Sikh turban? The Hindu's forehead mark? The Christian's crucifix? This college is going down a slippery slope. Let the girls in. Let them study. Let THEM decide. https://t.co/X2HUIo5hiV— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) February 3, 2022
A critic of Tharoor accused the politician of "playing politics," adding that "all schools have a uniform code to create unity! Wearing this violates that code!"
Pl stop playing politics @ShashiTharoor all schools have an uniform code to create unity! Wearing this violates that code!if people want wear something else they must petition govt to change the code,not play politics!in Kerala the govt refused to allow this in another matter! https://t.co/e2ahxLeftY— Mohandas Pai (@TVMohandasPai) February 3, 2022
Not everyone agrees that this is about implementing school uniforms.
The international Indian academic Ashok Swain said that "A nation has lost its mooring!" as videos of men in saffron scarves marched on the streets against Muslim girls.
Hindu students in Karnataka, India wearing Hindu Right-wing’s saffron scarves opposing Muslim women students’ wearing of hijabs! A nation has lost its mooring! pic.twitter.com/omEGyMSuX1— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) February 4, 2022
An Indian human rights lawyer also condemned the decisions saying that "You may not like a religious symbol, but that can't be made a reason to exclude a community from accessing public institutions. These are essential religious symbols like turban and beard for Sikhs. This diktat is totally illegal."
The most dangerous and worrisome trend going on in India currently. After school, now a govt. junior college in Karnataka closed its 'gates' on Muslim women for wearing Hijab! India is not France. Secularism in India is not separation of religion from public institutions.— Kawalpreet Kaur (@kawalpreetdu) February 3, 2022
There is increasing fear amongst India's Muslim minority that the government is seeking to deprive them of constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The Indian state of Karnataka is a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
"In a country where 84 percent of the population is Hindu, and just 14% Muslim, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has achieved the astonishing feat of creating a deep sense of Hindu victimhood," wrote the Indian writers Debasish Roy Chowdhury in an article headlined "Is India Headed for an Anti-Muslim Genocide?"