India on Saturday said “motivated comments” on the country’s internal matters were not welcome, a day after the United States Office of International Religious Freedom criticised the hijab ban in Karnataka educational institutions.
“Our constitutional framework and mechanisms, as well as our democratic ethos and polity, are the context in which issues are considered and resolved,” added Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of Union external affairs ministry. “Those who know India well would have a proper appreciation of these realities.”
On Friday, Rashad Hussain, the ambassador at large for the US’s International Religious Freedom, had said that the ban on hijabs in Karnataka stigmatises and marginalises women and girls.
“Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire,” Hussain had tweeted. “The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls.”
Hussain’s statement came only hours after Union Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the fourth Quad ministerial meeting in Melbourne.
In Karnataka, students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College have been agitating since last month after they were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in hijab. Similar protests have taken place across the state. On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.
On Thursday, the Karnataka High Court passed an interim order barring saffron scarves or hijabs in schools and colleges until further orders.
Several groups and individuals, including Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, have condemned the hijab ban. At the same time, Hindu students and mobs of men have been protesting against women wearing hijab in colleges in Karnataka.
As tensions across the state rose, the Karnataka government on Tuesday ordered all high schools and colleges in the state to be shut between February 9 and February 11. On Thursday, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that schools till Class 10 will resume from Monday and the state government will take a decision on reopening colleges later.
The Karnataka Police had also on Wednesday banned gatherings, agitations or any other forms of protest within 200 meters of educational institutions, reported ANI. The order will remain in effect for two weeks.
Earlier on February 8, Yousafzai had said that refusing girls to wear hijabs was “horrifying”, while sharing a Scroll.in article on Twitter about a 19-year-old student’s experience of being shut out of college because of her attire.
“Objectification of women persists – for wearing less or more,” she had tweeted. “Indian leaders must stop the marginalisation of Muslim women.”