Several feminist and civil rights democratic organisations from across the country collectively released a statement on Thursday, 10 February, condemning the targeting and exclusion of Hijab-wearing Muslim women students in Karnataka’s educational institutions.
The statement, which has been signed by over 1,750 individuals, including lawyers, activists and academicians, said.
"Hijab is only the latest pretext to impose apartheid on and attack Muslim women, following on the heels of Hindu supremacists holding multiple ‘online auctions’ of Muslim women and making speeches calling for their sexual and reproductive enslavement."
Some of the signatories of the letter include Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association; student activist and Jamia research scholar Safoora Zargar; Vrinda Grover, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, and Arundhati Dhuru, National Conveyor of the National Federation of Indian Women.
The statement demanded strict action against the saffron-wearing mob of men who heckled a hijab-wearing Muslim woman in Mandya, saying that the incident “is a warning of how the hijab can easily become the next pretext for mob attacks on Muslims.”
Regarding the denial of entry of Muslim girls in Udupi’s schools and colleges, the letter said that hijabs are not the reason for educational disruptions but rather, the Hindu-supremacist outfits who disrupted harmony with saffron stoles.
It said, “Rulebooks in at least one of the Udupi colleges allowed Muslim women to wear hijabs to college in Udupi as long as they matched the colour of the uniform. It is not hijabs that provoked the ongoing educational disruptions. It is Hindu-supremacist outfits which disrupted harmony by demonstrating with saffron stoles to demand a ban on hijabs.”
'In Solidarity with Muslim Women'
"Hindu supremacist groups in coastal Karnataka have, since 2008, been unleashing violence to enforce such apartheid, attacking togetherness between Hindu and Muslim classmates, friends, lovers. Islamophobic hate crimes have been joined at the hip to patriarchal hate crimes against Muslim and Hindu women - by the same Hindu-supremacist perpetrator," as per the statement.
The statement added that the signed organisations and individuals “unequivocally stand in solidarity” with Muslim women whether or not they don a hijab and added that they firmly believe that the Constitution mandates uniforms in schools and colleges to close the distance between students of unequal economic classes.
‘Uniforms Not Intended to Impose Cultural Uniformity on a Plural Country’
It said, "They (uniforms) are not intended to impose cultural uniformity on a plural country. This is why Sikhs are allowed to wear turbans not only in the classroom but even in the police and Army. This is why Hindu students wear bindi/pottu/tilak/Vibhuti with school and college uniforms without comment or controversy. And likewise, Muslim women should be able to wear hijabs with their uniforms."
Other signatories include organisations such as the All India Democratic Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, Awaaz e Nizwan, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Forum Against Oppression of Women, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Dalit Women’s Collective, National Federation of Dalit Women, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, and Feminists In Resistance.