NEW DEHLI: Protest reached the Indian capital against the heckling of Muslim girl, wearing Hijab, by hard liners’ Hindu mob in Karnataka while authorities have ordered to shut down educational institutions for 3 days in southern state after protests intensified.
In a video posted on social media, Hijab girl Muskan Khan is seen parking her bike outside a college in the city of Mandya before she is heckled by Hindu members of a hard liners’ group with “Jai Sri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) chants.
The girl reacts by raising her hand and shouting back: “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Great).
The standoff in Karnataka state has galvanised fears among the minority community about what they say is increasing persecution under the Hindu nationalist government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, British media reports.
In fresh demonstrations, officers fired teargas to disperse a crowd at one government-run campus, while a heavy police presence was seen at schools in nearby towns.
The chief minister, Basavaraj Bommai, appealed for calm after announcing that all high schools in the state would be closed for three days. “I appeal to all the students, teachers and management of
schools and colleges to maintain peace and harmony,” he said.
Students at a government-run high school were told last month not to wear hijabs, an edict that soon spread to other educational institutions in the state.
Confrontations on campuses have escalated between Muslim students condemning the ban and Hindu pupils who say their classmates have disrupted their education.
“All of a sudden they are saying you are not supposed to wear hijab … why did they start now?” said Ayesha, a teenage student at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in the coastal city of Udupi.
Ayesha said a teacher had turned her away from her chemistry exam for wearing the garment. “We are not against any religion. We are not protesting against anyone. It is just for our own rights,” she added.
Another student, Amrut, standing nearby among a crowd of Hindu boys wearing saffron shawls, said the dispute had unfairly prevented him from attending class. “We had … requested them not to wear hijab,” he said. “But today they are wearing hijab. They are not allowing us to go inside.”
The issue of Muslim women wearing hijabs had cropped up in a few other colleges in Karnataka earlier too, but it started gaining momentum when photos of the women protesters in Udupi went viral, western media reports.
Soon, Hindu students in some other colleges began coming to classes wearing saffron shawls – this forced officials to insist that both couldn’t be allowed on campus.
Last week, a video showing gates being shut on a group of hijab-clad students – shot at a pre-university college in Kundapur in Udupi district – had led to outrage.
Karnataka’s top court began hearing a petition challenging the legality of the ban on Tuesday but adjourned before issuing a ruling.
Modi’s rightwing Bharatiya Janata party governs Karnataka state, and several prominent members have thrown their support behind the ban.
Critics say Modi’s election in 2014 emboldened hard line groups who see India as a Hindu nation and are seeking to undermine its secular foundations at the expense of its 200 million-strong minority Muslim community.
The Hijab protest reached the capital New Dehli with a students’ outfit at Delhi University (DU) protesting against hijab restrictions in a government pre-university college in Udupi in Karnataka.
A crowd of nearly 50 students including a few wearing Hijabs gathered with placards that read ”We, the people of Muhammad will fight hate” and “In solidarity with the students of Karnataka”.
According to the protesters, wearing Hijab is a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution and is also an essential practice of the Islam religion.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Anupriya Patel dissociated Apna Dal from ‘Hindutva and all those issues’ by stressing the party stands for social justice and said it is ideologically different from the BJP.
Muslim candidates are not untouchable for her party, the Apna Dal (S) chief told PTI three days ahead of the first round of the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh elections beginning on February 10.
“Yes we are ideologically different from the BJP. People are trying to ask me questions on Hindutva and all those issues, I dissociate myself from all those issues and my party doesn’t do religious politics. We stand for social justice. That’s our ideology,” Ms Patel told state media.
“We have always worked for the marginalised sections of society, whether on the streets or in parliament. And this is our philosophy and our founding principles and we only stick to it,” she added.
The Apna Dal, which has been BJP’s ally in the last three elections in Uttar Pradesh the 2014 and 2019 general elections and the 2017 assembly polls has announced its first Muslim candidate this time.
Haider Ali, the grandson of Congress veteran Begum Noor Bano, was the first candidate announced by the Apna Dal (S). He is contesting against senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan’s son Abdullah Azam Khan from Suar.
“I don’t know why everybody is looking at a candidate from the perspective of religion. He is a promising youth who is well educated,” Ms Patel said. Her party doesn’t look at candidates from the prism of religion, she added in response to a question on there not being a single Muslim candidate from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) last time. Mr Ali is the first Muslim candidate for the Apna Dal and also for the NDA.
“The first MLA from my party when the founder of my party Sonelal Patel was alive was a Muslim who won the Pratapgarh Sadar constituency and his name was Haji Munnah. Many Muslims have been state presidents of the Apna Dal. So for my party Muslims are not untouchables and I don’t look at candidates in light of their religion,” Ms Patel said.