ISLAMABAD: Extremist Hindu groups in India are now demanding hijab ban in classrooms in more Indian states after Karnataka High Court upheld the decision of hijab ban on Tuesday.
The Karnataka High Court decision on Tuesday supported the southern state’s ban on the hijab imposed in February. Indian top federal ministers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have welcome the court’s decision.
There is no national guideline on uniforms in India and states often leave it to schools to decide what their students should wear.
“We are a Hindu nation and we do not want to see any kind of religious outfit in educational institutes of the country,” said Rishi Trivedi, president of the Hindu-first group Akhil Bharat Hindu MahaSabha.
“We welcome the court verdict and want the same rule to be followed throughout the country.”
The ban in BJP-ruled Karnataka had sparked protests by some Muslim students and parents, and counter-protests by Hindu students. Critics of the ban say it is another way of marginalising the Muslim community that accounts for about 13 per cent of Hindu-majority India’s 1.35 billion people.
Leaders of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s parent organisation, said they have asked for a hijab ban in Modi’s home state of Gujarat and would soon write to the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. The BJP is in power in both states.
“The hijab is not allowed in the defence forces, police, and government offices, then why the insistence on hijab in schools and colleges?” said VHP’s Gujarat secretary, Ashok Raval. “It is an attempt to raise communal tensions.”
Gujarat Education Minister Jitu Vaghani declined to comment. A state minister and a bureaucrat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no immediate plan to ban the hijab in schools.
Officials in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP retained control in recent state elections, declined to comment, saying a decision will only be taken by the next administration which should be in place in days.
Ayesha Hajeera Almas — who had challenged the Karnataka ban in court and is now considering approaching the country’s highest court to get the ban overturned — said there is a real fear that the hijab ban will now go national.
The 18-year-old said she has not attended school since late December after its authorities barred Muslim girls from wearing the hijab, even before the state-wide ban came in early February.
“Increasingly, we feel we are living in an India where its citizens are not treated equally,” Almas said from the Karnataka district of Udupi, from where the protests began.