Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai has ordered the closure of all high schools and colleges for three days “to maintain peace and harmony”. Incidents of stone-pelting and use of force by police were reported in Karnataka on Tuesday, as the hijab ban row escalated and protests by students spread to more colleges. Karnataka Home Minister Araga Janendra said that his government would probe the role of organisations that instigated protests across the state.
The Karnataka High Court, which is hearing petitions filed by five women from a government college in Udupi, questioning hijab restrictions, appealed for peace on Tuesday. Hearing the hijab matter, Karnataka High Court said it needs the attention of a larger bench, while lawyers representing the petitioners asked the court to pass an interim order allowing students to attend classes.
Videos of the confrontation at the Mandya pre-University college, were widely shared amid the escalating row over the use of hijab in educational institutions. In the videos, the young woman, identified later as Muskan, is seen parking her scooter and heading for classes when a group of men shout “Jai Shri Ram” and advance towards her, brandishing saffron scarves. Without breaking her stride, she responds with “Allah-hu-Akbar!” raising her arm in the air. As the men rush towards her and follow her, she keeps walking, shouting “Allah-hu-Akbar!” Within minutes, college officials approach her and escort her away.
Muskan later told, “When I entered the college they were not allowing me just because I was wearing the burqa… They started shouting Jai Shri Ram. So I started screaming Allah hu Akbar”.”The principal and lecturers supported me and protected me”. She added most of the men heckling her appeared to be outsiders. She said she knew about 10 percent of the men in the group as students at the college.
The hijab controversy started in Karnataka last month as six students of the Udupi’s Government Girls PU college alleged that they were barred from attending classes for insisting on wearing their headscarves. The matter escalated as right-wing supporters got involved. As staff in many colleges banned hijab – though rules allow it – many students took a confrontational position by showing up in saffron scarves and shouting slogans. The protests have spread to colleges in other areas like Mandya and Shivamogga. Its ripple effect is being felt in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry.
On Tuesday, Malala – who was 15 when she survived an attack by the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking up for the right of girls to be educated – called on India’s leaders to do something to “stop the marginalization of Muslim women”. “Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying,” the 24-year-old activist tweeted. “Objectification of women persists – for wearing less or more.”
The stand-off has increased fear and anger among people around the world, who say the country’s constitution grants the freedom to wear what they want. In the middle of studies, family, career, or anywhere no woman deserves to be put in a situation where she’s forced to do something.