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Statement on India’s Karnataka state barring hijab wearing students

Justice For All condemns barring of hijab wearing students from Karnataka state colleges in India. We stand with the students right to education

Justice for All condemns and expresses extreme concern over the barring of hijab wearing Muslim female students from educational institutions in Karnataka.

We stand in solidarity with these Muslim students. Articles 14 and 25 of the Indian constitution guarantee equality and religious freedom, including the right to wear hijab in the classroom.

These acts have been condoned by the highest-levels of government in the state.  The government of Karnataka is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political wing of the  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). On February 5, the Karnataka government affirmed the prohibition of hijab in the classroom, releasing a directive stating, “clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn.”

After initially denying the students entry, the school administration allowed them to attend school, but in separate classrooms. This “apartheid” style education will only further alienate Muslims, who are already a marginalized community in India, and will entrench existing divisions between religious communities.

On February 8, the Karnataka Chief Minister, Basavraj Bommai, ordered the closure of all schools and colleges in the state for the next three days amid statewide protests over this issue.

Karnataka government officials and other Hindutva leaders are using this opportunity to further vilify and degrade Muslim students by making Islamophobic statements and calling for a complete ban of the hijab. This is in line with the RSS/BJP’s Hindutva agenda to create a Hindu nation, free of religious minority communities.

Let’s be clear, this is Islamophobia at play. This is not just a simple “row” over the hijab, but a tactic of oppression orchestrated by malfeasant authorities against students because of their faith. For years students of different religious backgrounds have been allowed to wear religious symbols without issue. That is the beauty of a pluralistic democracy – it engenders a society that thrives on inclusivity and respect for all religions.

In the past few days, students wearing the hijab have been harassed and intimidated by Hindutva mobs donning saffron shawls. Hindutva mobs have barged into college premises seeking out and threatening these students. We fear for the safety of these young individuals who have now become vulnerable targets of anti-Muslim Hindutva mobs.

The Karnataka government and respective college administrations must immediately reverse their egregious behavior towards the students. They must respect the students’ choice to wear the hijab. In addition, and as a matter of urgency, the authorites must protect the students from ongoing hateful Islamophobic attacks, which the government’s actions have unleashed.


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