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Revoke Hijab Ban; stop dehumanization of Muslim women


In the light of the ban on Hijab in classrooms and college campuses that started in coastal Karnataka, a delegation of the Fraternity Movement travelled from 25-28 February across Karnataka state collecting testaments and taking stock of the situation after the statewide hijab ban and subsequent violence. The ban is a targeted hate crime aimed to disempower young Muslim women and segregate students on lines of religion.

We have found that hundreds of Muslim women are expelled from attending classes in the southern state, following the court interim order, in prima facia violation of human rights. The interim order is not only problematic to the beliefs and practices of the Muslim community but infact enabling apartheid against Muslim women. In the name of uniformity and law & order, they are being humiliated and dehumanized.

We travelled to Virajpet, Madikeri, Mangalore, Udupi, Kundapura, Bhatkal and Mandya talking and interacting with the young Muslim women who are being put in an unfortunate position to make a choice between pursuing their education or professing their faith- both of which are basic human rights. The brave students are unwilling to compromise on either. They are concerned that they are or will be missing their exams which is adding on the anxieties and insecurities that surround them. These are teenage students who are burdened to brave this herculean fight for identity and dignity. Many Muslim male students we met, are being physically harassed and attacked by their classmates affiliated with Hindu right wing groups. They are asked to wear saffron stoles and shout “Jai Shree Ram”. A non-Muslim student who refused to wear the saffron stole was stabbed. The way students associated with ABVP and other right wing outfits are attacking without any checks is deeply concerning and unsettling. We all saw the video where Muskan was heckled by 30-40 odd Hindu students radicalized by the RSS donning saffron stoles that surfaced from Mandya, Karnataka. As everyone moves on from the incident we want to stress that the situation is all the more tense and serious.

The whole issue escalated only after members of the ABVP and other right wing outfits started a mobilization against hijab distributing saffron stoles and invoking Hindu supremacy. This incident is an example of the patterned way in which these organizations work.The apathy of the Karnataka government and the appalling statements by BJP Karnataka ministers is furthering hate and islamophobia. BJP Karnataka is trying to turn this rights issue into “international conspiracy” which is the Hathras gang rape model repeating. Karnataka home minister ordered an investigation to “probe their links” with “terrorism groups”. The stereotypical suspicion that surrounds Muslims is being invoked to rob the marginalized off its humanity and dignity.

Local and regional media channels are further harassing and intimidating the affected Muslim students. They are violating not only media ethics but all moral ethics. Saffron television channels are using this incident to demonize and stereotype Muslims to manufacture a collective apathy that will further normalize attacks on Muslims and their religious practices.

We found out that incidents of violence and physical assault in several districts especially in Shimoga are directly unleashed at the members of the Muslim community. The affected areas have been barricaded by police and section 144 has been imposed making it impossible to monitor the situation and intensity of violence. Several videos that came out are evidence that the police was silent onlooker of the attacks.

We met community organizations and leaders who are concerned with the way the situation is unfolding and is being capitalized on by Sangh Parivar organizations. They are trying to provide all necessary reliefs; academic, legal, and emotional to the affected Muslim students.

Major concerns after the visit are:-

-Teenagers burdened with Anxieties and mental trauma

– Increasing insecurity with the nearing of examinations

– Security of the Muslim community especially Muslim women- The inappropriate and unethical media response

– Increasing incidents of physical violence

– Tense situation is many districts.

Fraternity Movement of India Demands:

– The hijab ban be immediately and unconditionally revoked. The discriminatory interim order that has become instrumental in furthering apartheid should taken back.

– Government should direct CDC and College administrations to ensure that students are allowed to appear for exams that they have missed or that may be missed because of the ban.

– Law enforcement should arrange for the safe and dignified return of Muslim students. – All FIRs on protesting Muslim students be taken back immediately.

– Right wing outfits involved in communalizing the issue and students who are heckling and intimidating Muslim women should face police action.

– The violence that is unleashed in Shimoga and other areas should be impartially investigated, culprits should be punished and those who have incurred property loss should be compensated.

 “While others wait and hope for a change, dear members, I ask you to be the hope and the change”.