The Karnataka High Court’s judgment in the favour of hijab ban is not just disappointing, it’s highly unconstitutional.
Upholding the ban, the court ruled that hijab is not an essential religious practice to Islam. It observed, “It can hardly be argued that hijab being a matter of attire, can be justifiably treated as fundamental to Islamic faith. It is not that if the alleged practice of wearing hijab is not adhered to, those not wearing hijab become the sinners, Islam loses its glory & it ceases to exist as a religion.” Five petitions had challenged the ban imposed by the state government earlier.
Our judiciary is expected to ensure the complete implementation of the Constitution of India. If we have forgotten and we need reminders, the right to education, the right to equality, right to practise and propagate religion are all our fundamental rights. The courts are expected – are supposed – to ensure and protect these fundamental rights, not challenge them.
All Doors Have Been Shut to Muslim Women
On the very day of the judgment, eight students wearing hijab were turned away by the Kembhavi village PU college in Karnataka’s Yadgir district. The students had gone to college to take their second PU preparatory examination. Scores of students last month were denied entry to colleges when the state’s temporary order was still in place. Karnataka's Campus Front of India – had estimated that a total of 4,291 students have missed classes and examinations from across 79 educational institutions in Karnataka. Another Muslim outfit, Udupi Muslim Okkutta, had said that at least 230 Muslim women students have missed internal examinations in the Udupi district alone.
I’m appalled that the honourable court prioritised the issue of uniform, which sprung overnight, over the right to education in a country like ours, where every effort should be made to ensure that every person is educated. We have incentives in the form of mid-day meals and free uniforms for children so that the parents send them to school and seek education. In a country like ours, we are denying education, we are shutting gates on these girls’ faces because they are wearing something that they believe is a religious code for them.
Have we forgotten that we belong to a highly conservative society? Have we forgotten that a large section of our society is still uneducated? Did we not think for a moment that perhaps some of these girls got the permission to come out of their homes only when they promised to wear hijab and seek education? Hijab liberated them, hijab empowered them to reach the gates of these educational institutions.
I’m not even talking about the right to choice here, because I think that we as a society do not understand the concept of the right to choice. I’ll be wasting my time trying to explain what the right to choice is. So, I won’t go there.
What About Janeyu, Turbans and Gayatri Mantra in Schools?
If we talk about the right to equality and we talk about the fact that religious codes or religious symbols should not enter our educational institutions, then I’d like to question a whole lot of things.
Are we going to check whether students are wearing the janeyu or not? Are we going to challenge turbans in schools and colleges? A girl who goes through the entire ritual of ‘Amrit Chhakna’ also wears a turban. Are we going to disallow her to wear that? And why are our morning prayers full of Gayatri Mantra, keertans, Saraswati Vandana or the hanuman chalisa? We never seem to have a problem with that. But if we talk about equal rules, then all these things must be discouraged, too.
The Hijab Row Was About Attacking Muslims
We are a secular society. The state respects all religions, does not favour one religion over another, is not biased against any religion. The hijab controversy was never about hijab. It is another step towards the dehumanisation of the minority community of this country.
It seems to be okay to attack them in every which way. You attack them culturally, you have no problems with various congregations that call for genocide, you have no problems when people in cinema halls raise communal slogans against the minority community. And the hijab ban seems to be yet another addition to the flood of injustice that the minority community is gripped in.
Justice is the only thing one hangs on to. The day it gets denied is a sad day. Today is a sad day.
(The author is a radio jockey. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)