Karnataka Hijab Row: CM orders closure of all high schools and colleges for three days

Muskan, the student wearing a hijab seen standing up to group of saffron scarf-wearing men at a college in Karnataka today ‘was not worried’ as they heckled her, she said in an interview following the incident.

She also said she would keep fighting for her right to wear the hijab.

In the video, the group seems to follow her to the building as she confronts them. Finally, school officials seem to escort her away from the group of men.

‘I was not worried. When I entered the college they were not allowing me just because I was wearing the burqa,’ she said in an interview to a news channel.

‘They started shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. So I started screaming ‘Allah hu Akbar’. The principal and lecturers supported me and protected me.’

She said she was familiar with some of the men, the rest seemed to be strangers.

‘Our priority is our education. They are ruining our education.’ she added.

Colleges across Karnataka have seen rising protests between students fighting for their rights to wear the hijab and the so-called ‘saffron scarf’ brigade opposing them.

The protests started last month at the Government Girls PU college in Udupi when six students alleged they had been barred from classes for insisting on wearing the hijab.

The protests then spread to more colleges in other cities such as Mandya and Shivamogga, with college staff banning the attire, in a departure from the norm. Many students reacted by showing up in saffron scarves and shouting slogans, as was the case with Muskan..

She added ‘This only started last week. We used to wear the burqa and hijab all the time. I wore the hijab in class and used to remove the burqa. The hijab is a part of us. The principal never said anything. Outsiders have started this. The principal has advised us not to carry the burqa. We will continue to protest for the hijab. It is just a part of being a Muslim girl.’ She added that all her friends of different faiths supported her.

Things have since turned far messier and more communal, with stone-pelting and violence in cities like Harihara and Davengere. The police had to resort to tear gas to quell the chaos.

Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace laureate and women’s rights activist, on Tuesday took to Twitter to share her horror over the ongoing hijab controversy.

‘“College is forcing us to choose between studies and the hijab”. Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying. Objectification of women persists — for wearing less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalisation of Muslim women’ she tweeted.

The government has now declared schools and colleges shut for three days. Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai  appealed to fellow leaders to desist from instigating students or issuing provocative statements as he sought to restore peace.

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