Keep quiet or else...: A year after Hijab ban, Muslim students still face discrimination

Hijab Ban: PUCL requested the Karnataka police to extend protection to all the petitioners and their families who were before the HC and Supreme Court.

Hijab BanHijab Ban

Anu Parthiban | January 9, 2023 | 06:50 PM IST

NEW DELHI: More than a year after the Hijab ban imposed in pre-university in Karnataka, Muslim girl students continue to face difficulties to pursue education and also “face grave consequences such as psychological distress and isolation”, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said.

The PUCL today published a report titled ‘Closing the Gates to Education:Violations of Rights of Muslim Women Students in Karnataka’s Educational Institutions’ on the impact of Hijab ban on students.

On October 13, 2022, the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict on the Hijab ban. After hearing the matter for 10 days, Justice Hemant Gupta's verdict upheld the Karnataka High Court order to ban Hijab in education institutions. Whereas, Justice Sudhanshshu Dhuli allowed all the appeals and set aside the judgment of the high court.

PUCL-Karnataka undertook a study to investigate the impact of the de facto imposed ban on the hijab and examine the role of state officials and police officers. The team visited 5 districts – Hassan, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Shimoga and Raichur – and collected testimonies from women students impacted by the Hijab judgment.

“The report reveals how these students have not only been denied their right to education but have also borne the brunt of a climate of hate, hostility, and misinformation,” the official statement said.

It also reported on how vigilante groups carried out a “vilification campaign” against Muslim students and how the inaction of the government indirectly encouraged these fundamentalist forces.

The study focused on the impact, failure to ensure safety and various socio-cultural factors, including the biases, prejudices, and stereotypes against the Muslim students. It also said that there is a need for the matter to be taken up expeditiously as the delay has prolonged the Muslim students' wait for justice.

Also read | Shattered dreams, hostile environment: Muslim women students dropping out of college, says report

Extend protection to petitioners: PUCL

According to the report, teachers and parents of students in Hassan district said that all Muslim students, during their Class 10 exams were asked to remove their hijabs for the first time in their lives in public.

“When some teachers visited the Block Education Officer in order to work out a reasonable compromise beforehand, he flared up and threatened them: “The BEO said - ‘Don’t create a scene in such tough times! Keep quiet or else–” Recollecting the incident, they asked “Was that a warning or an instruction?”

The police personnel were deployed at examination centres. “But this time, the police were there only to force Muslim students to remove the hijab. It was a humiliating experience, and many students returned home and missed their examinations because of this”, said a student in Hassan.

The PUCL has recommended the Karnataka government to “uphold its constitutional commitment towards principles of nondiscrimination, privacy, autonomy, and dignity in relation to the affected Muslim students”.

It also asked the state to compensate students for the loss they have suffered due to its “unconstitutional and arbitrary action”. Further, it requested the Karnataka police to extend protection to all the petitioners and their families who were before the high court and Supreme Court and ensure their physical safety and security.

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