Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Video Producer: Naman Shah
Look at the pictures of the girl student in a hijab, the Sikh student in his turban, and UP CM Yogi Adityanath and BJP MP Pragya Thakur in their saffron clothes. Is the girl, the boy, Yogi, or Thakur breaking the Indian law? Or defying India's Constitution? NO.
India's secular law permits Yogi Adityanath to go to work every day as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister in saffron clothes, permits Pragya Thakur to attend Parliament in saffron clothes. The same law permits Sikh students to wear their pagri, patkha, turban to school, to college, to work.
So, why then are Muslim girls are being forced to take off their hijabs?
Yeh Jo India Hai Na, our law, our Constitution has not changed. So, why were these girls, who respectfully refused to remove their hijabs, turned away from colleges?
For these girls in Udupi and other towns of Karnataka, along with their right to dress as per the norms of their religion, or simply their right to dress as they choose to, their fundamental right to education has been snatched away. Most recently, a teacher has resigned from her job after being told to take off her hijab.
And far from defending their rights, it is the state government that is responsible for denying their rights. How is this acceptable?
And sadly, the Karnataka High Court, too, is answerable. Its interim order of 10 February says, "We restrain all students regardless of religion or faith from wearing saffron shawls, scarfs, hijab, religious flags or the like in classrooms, until further orders."
But how has the high court equated saffron scarves with the hijab? These scarves were a gimmick that lasted a few days, while Muslim girl students have worn the hijab for years. For the saffron-scarved students, many of whom indulged in hooliganism as seen in several viral videos, putting the scarves away was easy.
But for the girls used to wearing the hijab every day, it was humiliating, it stripped them of their dignity. Article 25 of India's Constitution guarantees the right to practise one's religion, and wearing the hijab is a part of that.
Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to privacy. Privacy, which is lost when girls are made to remove their hijabs outside their school and college gates. And it's the Karnataka High Court's interim order that led to this.
And while the high court and the Karnataka government allow the matter to stay unresolved, the situation stays vitiated. It allows all manner of abuse to be hurled at Muslim girls.
For instance, how this girl Muskan was heckled at a college campus by saffron shawl protestors, and after that, abused on social media.
Then, the statement from Pragya Thakur, who said Muslim girls should wear Hijabs in madrassas or at home but not in schools or colleges. Why? If she can wear saffron clothes to the Lok Sabha, which our law allows her to do, why doesn't the same law allow these students to wear the hijab?
Are India's Muslim girls and Muslim women second-class citizens? They are not. Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it's a secular country. And secular for all, not just for Pragya Thakur.
And lastly, the idea of choice. If a Punjabi or a Hindu girl came to college with a dupatta over her head, would we stop her? No. It's her choice.
So, if a Muslim girl wears a hijab, what's the fuss? It's her choice. And there are a number of Muslim women who don't wear the hijab. Again, their choice.
From Muskan Khan to Zeenat Aman, from Harsimrat Kaur Badal to Harnaaz Sandhu, from Pragya Thakur to Priyanka Chopra – India's women can dress any which way they want.
And we MUST respect their choice. And, we have to. That's the law.
So, before more potshots are taken at India's Muslim women, we hope the Karnataka High Court wakes up to what India's Constitution guarantees, okays the hijab, and buries this matter, ASAP!