The large-scale demonstrations demanding that students should have the right to wear the hijab in educational institutions are a “conspiracy to push back Muslim women”, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan told NDTV on Wednesday.

He made the remarks in the context of protests for and against the hijab ban in Karnataka.

In an interview to the news channel, Khan alleged that there was a “sinister design” against Muslim women and girls. “After the abolition of [triple talaq], they are feeling liberated, they are having a sense of freedom,” the Kerala governor said. “They are pursuing education and joining great careers. This is a conspiracy...”

According to Khan, the Supreme Court has held that protection under Article 25 of the Constitution (which deals with freedom of religion) only deals with essential and intrinsic practices of a religion. “Hijab is definitely not one of them [essential practices],” he told the channel.

Khan said that when students join an institution, they agree to abide by the regulations and norms for discipline set by it. He added that there was no conflict between religion and education.

In the past, Khan has expressed support for the law criminalising triple talaq among Muslims. In 1986, he had quit the Rajiv Gandhi-led Cabinet on account of disagreements over the landmark Shah Bano case, in which the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of her right to a monthly maintenance from her husband who had divorced her.

The Congress government at the time had enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, which overturned the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Hijab ban

On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”. The Karnataka High Court is currently hearing a group of petitions challenging the order.

Last week, Hindu students and mobs of men protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes at several places in Karnataka. At some colleges, Muslim students were heckled, while in another case, some men climbed up a flagpole to plant a saffron flag and broke into classrooms.

‘Wear hijabs at madrassas, not schools’: Pragya Thakur

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Bhopal, Pragya Singh Thakur, said that hijabs will not be tolerated if worn in educational institutes other than madrassas, PTI reported.

She made the remarks while addressing an event at a temple in Bhopal’s Barkheda Pathani area.

“You have madrassas,” Thakur said. “We have nothing to do if you wear hijab or apply khijab [hair colour] there. You wear the attire required there and follow their discipline. But if you distort the knowledge and discipline of schools and colleges in the country and start wearing hijab and applying khijab then it will not be tolerated.”

The Bhopal MP said that a purdah, or veil, is used to protect oneself against people who view a person with evil eyes. “But it is certain that Hindus don’t see them with evil eyes as they worship women,” she said.