THE right to wear religious dress, the right to education and the right to equality – Opposition parties invoked these principles on Saturday to criticize colleges in Karnataka which refused entry to female students wearing the hijab.
While Congress, Trinamool Congress, left-wing parties, RJD, NCP and BSP have argued that the Constitution guarantees citizens the basic right to practice their religion, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi argued hit a different note.
She said school is a place of education and students should be students, not “religious brand ambassadors.”
Speaking on the issue for the first time, top Congress official Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “By letting students’ hijabs hinder their education, we are stealing the future of India’s girls. My Saraswati gives knowledge to all. It does not differentiate. #SaraswatiPuja.
Her tweet on Saturday – when Saraswati Puja was observed – came across carefully, reflecting Congress’s anxiety over a possible backlash.
According to his fellow opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge: “They have been going to schools wearing headscarves for decades. No one had any objection earlier. Now why are they against it? They do this to divert attention. There are no jobs, they are unable to control inflation, they are using areas like Udupi and Mangalore as proving grounds. If it’s a success, they can replicate it elsewhere in the state.
“Justice is dealing with it. The constitutional rights of the people must be protected. This is our position,” CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told the Indian Express.
Manoj Kumar Jha, leader of the RJD and deputy of Rajya Sabha, invoked the Constitution. “The hijab is not a barrier, the barrier is in the minds of those who oppose it,” Jha said. “I teach at a university, I have had several female students over the years who wore the hijab. It never occurred to me that I should care. We must look at how the Constitution, in particular article 25 (right to freedom of religion) speaks of it. Have we now decided to abandon all the ideas dear to this nation just because you want to create a new barrier between people and communities every day to distract attention?
Sushmita Dev, from Trinamool Congress, said: “As long as there are laws, customs and personal traditions in this country, no one can tell people what to do and what to wear. It is part of their culture and their custom. You must respect it. »
Shiv Sena MP Rajya Sabha Priyanka Chaturvedi disagreed.
“When we were in school, the uniform was first and foremost a religious affiliation. If a school sets a standard, why do our politicians and religious leaders get in on it and make it a matter of religion? Let’s even say for club entry if you are not allowed to wear sandals… then you follow these rules School is a place of education and every school follows a uniform standard In Maharashtra we had the same uniform: canvas school bag, same canvas shoes, scrunched hair… we went there as students… we didn’t go there as religious ambassadors,” she told The Indian Express.
“Of course, democracy gives you the freedom to choose; after school hours, you can choose what you want to wear… If you are talking about a secular nation, a secular nation must respect the rules and the norms,” she added.
For BSP MP for Lok Sabha, Kunwar Danish Ali, the decision to block the girls because of their hijab undermines the Modi government’s plank of beti bachao, beti padhao. “As a country, we are trying to change the mindset of a large part of the population who think that girls’ education is a second priority. It is a fact that girls’ education is still not a top priority in many communities, including Dalits, tribes and minorities, especially Muslims,” he said.
NCP’s Majeed Memon said the controversy is hardening fault lines with non-Muslim girls wearing saffron shawls in protest. “It’s meant to divide students into two different communities, which is very unfortunate,” he said.
More so when student education has been hit hard by the pandemic. “Now, on the resumption, the girls should not be made to suffer more on the issue of hijab. Until the government committee decides one way or the other, it would be desirable for the authorities to let them follow classes. However, Muslim girls and parents must abide by the uniform rules,” he said.