HIJAB POLITICS IN KARNATAKA
The self-styled secularists are past-masters of using religion for their electoral gains and that is reflected in the action of Congress and Left in supporting the pro-hijab movement being organized by the Muslim clergy for imposing the Taliban rules on the innocent girls of the community. The statement of Congress leader and the former Chief Minister Sidharamaih, where he concluded that banning Hijab, as per the existing education Act rules, in the academic institutions is aimed at preventing the access to education to Muslim girls is the attempt of that party to communalize the issue and gain some votes. Similar statements have emanated the other secular champions including Leftists ignores the past happenings of Kerala and judicial decision made by the courts on the dress uniform. If the secularists has to believe then the Muslim girls’ education and betterment of their life and career is solely dependent on their hijab. The entire Hijab controversy is needless one and when one goes through the relevant facts, it is clear that the self-styled secularists has a grand plan to disturb the peace in the western Karnataka through communal politics.
First thing first. The uniform rule is not a new one for Karnataka and it was there in the educational institutions for decades including the period when Congress was ruling the state and Sidharamaiah was heading that Congress government. The girls of Muslim community were attending the pre-university colleges for the past several years without wearing Hijab. So it is obvious it is other than religious sentiment which is forcing the girls to rake up hijab issue. It is obvious that the hijab issue is timed with the UP elections and is intended to polarize the Muslim community. Barring that there is no other possible explanation for the sudden and new found love for hijab by the teenage girls. To garner few seats the Congress is going to the extent of putting the academic future of the innocent Muslim girls. The hidden agenda of ‘secular Congress’ was understood by some educated Muslim women, who now came openly against this hijab wearing insistence and they argued that “hijab wearing is not mandated in Islam and the religious bigots are imposing the Hijab on innocent girls”. Those educated Muslim women allege that the Muslim clergy are trying to help the Congress to gain hold in the area through the overt communal agenda.
Secondly what the college authorities are insisting is not a new practice and exclusive. The Section 133(2) of Karnataka education Act, 1983 gave a school the right to prescribe the compulsory uniform style of attire. In fact, all the Christian missionary run educational institutions impose the uniform attire rule quoting this section of the Act. The Hindu girls studying in the Christian run institutions are not allowed to wear the ‘bindi’ and haldi’, bangles, which are traditional to the girls of Hindu community. They are not allowed to have ‘mehandi’ even on religious occasion. Few years back a Christian school in Jullandhar punished the Hindu girls for wearing the mehandi and defended that action as a part of policy of school uniform policy. When few Hindu activists protested they were accused as communal out to disturb the communal peace in Punjab. In Karnataka also the Christian schools impose the non-exhibition of Hindu identity symbols by the girls even now. But never the parents of those Hindu girls created show by taking on the Christian missionary school authorities or the self-styled secularists defended the right of Hindu girls to exhibit their religious symbols on the body. But what is happening in Udupi area of Karnataka is opposite. Muslim
girls studying in the government institutions wants to exhibit their religious identity through hijab and their families join the protest and political parties who swear by secularism support that Muslim cause. The Hindu girl students and their parents accepted the authority of the government and the education Act of Karnataka as they have secular outlook unlike the now agitating Muslims who think for them religion is first and secularism is last.
Whether this imposition of uniform on the students go against the freedom guaranteed under the Art. 25 of the Indian constitution is the next question. It is true that the Indian constitution has given the freedom to profess and propagate the religion of their choice for all the communities but one should not the miss the vital point in that Article. The constitution has not given freedom to exhibit their religion in violation of the existing rules and regulations made from time to time by the Parliament and Assemblies. It was basing on this the governments of the day aimed at secularization of the people in vital sectors like education, health, defense and there was no exemptions based on religion.
The question of standard uniform practice is followed in many areas and professions. In no higher educational institute the dress code is allowed to be violated by any one. In hospitals nurse, doctors, irrespective of their religious beliefs, wear the prescribed uniforms. There are no instances where Muslim women working as hospital nurse or in the police constabulary insisting the wearing of the hijab.
The issue of supremacy of uniform over the religion sanctioned dress was settled by the Kerala High Court when a girl student approached it claiming her right to wear the hijab which was protected under the Art.25(1) of the constitution the court directed the Kerala government to take a decision and that state government rejected the Muslim girl’s plea to wear the hijab by saying the religious symbols are not allowed in Student Police Cadet (SPC) Project and the Kerala high court interfered no further. In another case (Fathima Thasneem Vs. state of Kerala, the court said that the management of a private, aided school has every right to disallow head scarf and full sleeve shirts in the class room since those were inconsistent with the dress code. The court further said that: “if the management is not given free hand to administer and manage institution that would denude their fundamental rights”. The Art.25 is
for freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion can be restricted only by justifications based on public order. The legal and constitutional position being in favour of the Karnataka educational institutions imposing the dress uniforms on the students, the current controversy is apparently to please a minority community and build a vote bank.
Despite voters consistent rejection of appeasement of minorities policies the Congress party in Karnataka still wish to wade through their murky ‘Muslim first’ policy. Muslim community should get to know that secular parties are trying to Talibanise their community by supporting the pro-hijab agitation and that is dangerous to the progress of Muslim community. Early they realize the communal politics of secular parties it is better for their future. Hope educated Muslim intellectuals will take the lead.
By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao