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.

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.

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. 

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!"

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.

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."

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?"

Source: TRT World