The outrage and resentment over a ban on wearing hijab at schools in an Indian state is spreading, not just in India itself but abroad as well.
Hundreds of students in Kolkata on Wednesday chanted slogans and blocked roads in protest against the ban.
The protesting students in Kolkata were predominantly women wearing hijabs, an eyewitness said, adding the demonstrations were without incident. The students said that they planned to reconvene on Thursday.
Veiled Muslim women in capital Delhi shouted slogans as they attended a protest organised by All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen against the recent hijab ban.
However, India’s technology hub Bangalore banned protests around schools and other educational institutions for two weeks on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the protest over Karnataka’s hijab ban in colleges continued on the second day in Mumbai with citizens participating in signature campaigns and staging demonstrations in support of hijab.
“Hijab is our constitutional right and we will protect it at any cost. I have organised a signature campaign to support the rights and freedom of women,” said Samajwadi Party MLA and corporator Rais Shaikh.
One of the volunteers of the signature campaign, Kausar Khan, said, “They don’t want us to wear hijab but according to our religion we are supposed to wear it. In most of the Muslim families the girls are not forced to wear the hijab but we wear it by choice. This is a secular country but we are being treated like outsiders, it is our right to practice our religion. Even the Sikhs wear a turban, they are allowed to fly planes wearing a turban but our girls are not even allowed to go to college wearing a hijab. They should focus on education and not in ways which can lead to communal unrest.”
“We have never discriminated among people of other religions, we have treated everyone equally, but the opposite of that is happening with us. Since yesterday we have begun a signing campaign, we are bringing together all the people who are in support of hijab. Not only students but people of all age groups have participated in the signing campaign. This campaign has been going on across Agripada, Madanpura, Nagpada, Byculla and will spread beyond Mumbai Central. We received only one hour’s permission to set up the signing board on the main road of Agripada yesterday and get signatures but we will approach the police for more permission to continue this work,” added Kausar Khan.
Another protest in support of hijab which was going to be held at Minara Masjid, Mohammed Ali Road on Wednesday at 5pm was cancelled due to denial of police permission.
A woman who reached the location of the protest, Sana Khan said, “I received a message regarding the protest which was going to be held at Mohammed Ali Road today at 5pm so I decided to come because I support the hijab. But when I came here today, I saw many policemen who were instructing people that the protest won’t be held because there is no police permission granted for it.”
“Even though I was not able to participate in the protest today, I would still like to say that we all need to stand together united so that we can maintain secularism in our country. Our country has so many different religions which should make us more united because we cannot afford to fight against each other. The hijab just like any other religious clothing should be given the respect and dignity that it deserves. Although we were denied the right to protest today, we will not be discouraged, if we get permission in the coming days, I will make sure I am there along with more people to support this cause,” added Sana Khan.
Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray also tweeted today on this issue saying, “Where there is a prescribed uniform in schools/colleges, it should be followed. Only education should be the focus at centers of education. Religious or political issues should not be brought to schools/colleges.”
Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah slammed Karnataka’s BJP government in a series of tweets saying that the “issue could have been resolved harmoniously at the local level”.
“Karnataka BJP, which politicised the issue, is now clueless on how to control the situation,” he wrote.
CONDEMNATION: Meanwhile, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai let weight to Indian Muslim students wearing hijab.
In her message on Twitter, she said that “refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying. Objectification of women persists for wearing less or more,” she said in a tweet late on Tuesday.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said it was a grave violation of fundamental human rights and urged the international community to take notice of the situation.
“The world must realise that this is part of Indian state plan of ghettoisation of Muslims,” he said in response to an incident in Karnataka where a mob of Hindu extremists heckled a hijab-clad Muslim girl.
The minister said minority communities in India continued to suffer mistreatment, which was a matter of grave concern. India claimed to be a champion of secularism and democracy, while in fact Muslim citizens there were facing restrictions even over their attire.