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'MLA Wears Saffron Stole In Assembly, Why Can't We Wear Hijab?': Jaipur Students

BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya visited a school in Jaipur and objected to the hijab worn by students, causing outrage.

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A BJP MLA’s visit to a school in Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur, and his subsequent controversial remarks on the hijab, have now snowballed into a sitting minister demanding a hijab ban in the entire state. The hijab-wearing students, in response, are protesting against the MLA’s remarks and demanding he be penalised for them. This comes almost two years after a hijab ban was enforced in Karnataka’s educational institutes, by the then BJP government.

BJP MLA from Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal constituency, Balmukund Acharya, visited an all-girls government school called the Gangapol Senior Secondary school on 27 January, on account of the school’s annual day and Republic Day celebrations. There, the MLA objected to students wearing the hijab. In videos of his interaction at the school that subsequently went viral, he can be seen asking school teachers why some students are wearing the hijab.

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BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya visited a school in Jaipur and objected to the hijab worn by students, causing outrage.

BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya asking teachers about the hijab wearing students.

(Screenshot)

“What is this deal with the hijab? Are these girls married? Then why are they wearing the hijab?,” Acharya can be seen asking a teacher. In another video, while interaction with the students, he can be seen raising slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Saraswati Mata Ki Jai’. He then pulls up the students for not chanting along. “Some girls aren’t chanting (the slogans). Why? Has someone asked you not to?” In another video, he is speaking to some teachers and asking them to “shut down the hijab.” He can also be seen saying, “the hijab is ruining the atmosphere of the school.”

'MLA's Remarks Upset Us': Students

After the videos of Acharya’s statements began surfacing on the internet, many hijab-wearing students of the government school sat down in protest against the MLA. The protesting students gheraoed the Subhash Chowk police station in Jaipur, and demanded action be taken for his remarks.

BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya visited a school in Jaipur and objected to the hijab worn by students, causing outrage.

Hijab wearing students protest in Jaipur against the MLA's remarks.

(Screenshot)

Speaking to The Quint, one of the protesting students of the school said that she was hurt by Acharya’s comments. “Being told that us wearing the hijab is ruining the atmosphere of the school...that was very upsetting. He is a sitting MLA. He shouldn’t disrespect students of one community like this,” the student in class 9 told The Quint.

Another student said that hijab is not worn inside the classrooms, but only till the gate. “It’s an all girls school so we don’t wear hijab in the classrooms. We take it off at the gate. But only on occasions like the annual function or Republic Day celebrations when outsiders are coming in, we wear the hijab. That’s how it has been since the beginning and no one has ever objected,” said another student, in class 8.

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The student added that majority of the students in the school are Muslim, since the school falls in a Muslim-majority locality. “Most of the students are Muslims, and almost all of them wear the hijab. It has never interfered with our studies,” the student said.

A hijabi protestor released a video of herself stating that the MLA also wears a saffron stole. “He wears a saffron stole to the assembly. He was wearing it even while taking his oath as an MLA. If that is allowed then why can’t we wear the hijab in schools,” she said.

Acharya, who is frequently spotted in a saffron stole, was wearing one during his oath-taking ceremony in December 2023 as well.

Besides that, he also broke a coconut amid cheers of 'Jai Sri Ram' while entering the Vidhan Sabha for the first time. He termed it the "beginning of Ram Rajya."

'Tomorrow Our Girls Will Wear Lehenga...': Acharya Doubles Down

After the students sat on protests on Monday, Acharya released a video statement, doubling down on his initial remarks at the school.

“When I asked the teachers if there are two types of dress codes here, they said no...But then why were so many girls there wearing the hijab? By that logic, tomorrow our girls will also show up in lehengas,” Acharya said.

He also justified his sloganeering at the school. “In my daily life also I say ‘Jai Sri Ram’, I don’t say Hello or Hi. I start all conversations taking God’s name...no one should object to it,” Acharya said. “There is nothing wrong to ask students to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Why is there an objection to praising Lord Saraswati? This is not right,” he said.

In December 2023, months after being elected as an MLA, an FIR was registered against Acharya under the SC/ST Atrocities Act for allegedly assaulting a Dalit man. In another incident, a video of Acharya telling a government officer to shut down the meat shops in the Hawa Mahal area, created controversy.

Minister Speaks Of Bringing Hijab Ban In Rajasthan

Following the protests, BJP leader and Rajasthan cabinet minister Kirori Lal Meena supported Acharya and said that he would go to the CM demanding a hijab ban. “The dress code should be followed. Hijab is banned in many nations, so it cannot be allowed in our nation’s schools under any circumstances,” Meena said, adding that he would speak to CM about it since “our MLA has raised this issue”. 
 
Meena further alleged that it is the Congress’ “appeasement politics” to be blamed for “the Muslim community not making progress. 
 
“Because of the fanaticism in the community, and because of Congress’ appeasement politics, the community has not been able to progress. They have a lack of education, so there should be propagation of education and the Muslim community should have progressive thinking... The dress code in schools should be followed,” Meena said. 
 
Congress MLA from Adarsh Nagar constituency, Rafeek Khan, also tried raising the issue in the Rajasthan Assembly, but the Speaker did not allow him to speak and expunged his statement from the assembly proceedings. 
 
Later, Khan told the media that he stands with the hijabi students. “Acharya is doing this to stay in limelight...He should understand that he is not an MLA of a single political party but of all the castes, communities and all the constituents.” 
 
Speaking to The Quint, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Jaipur North) Rashi Dogra said that the police is investigating the matter after the protests. “The students did not register a complaint with the police. They sent a letter to the Collector. Still, we are investigating this on our end, watching all the videos, to see if something is to be done,” the DCP told The Quint.  
 
Karnataka instituted a hijab ban in government educational institutes of the state in early 2022. The Congress, which came to power in state in 2023, has recently said that there will be no barrier to entry for hijabi students in the state’s schools and colleges. 

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Topics:  Hijab Ban 

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