Thousands of Muslim girls and women across Karnataka were robbed of their access to education due to the state government order banning hijabs in educational institutions and the High Court ruling that upheld the directive, human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties said in a report.
The organisation, citing testimonies from students across the state, said that a range of rights were “comprehensively violated” after the High Court’s judgement.
“These rights which have been violated include Right to Education without Discrimination, Right to Equality, Right to Dignity, Right to Privacy, Right to Expression, Right to Non-Discrimination and Freedom from Arbitrary State Action,” the PUCL report said.
The organisation alleged that the Karnataka government completely ignored its constitutional obligation in its “single-minded focus on ensuring that the hijab was prohibited in colleges”. It said that several students had to drop out of educational institutes because of the directive.
The PUCL urged Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to rescind the notification that banned the wearing of the hijab in schools and colleges. It also urged the judiciary to carry out an inquiry to look into why the government took such a “sudden, arbitrary and unconstitutional” action.
“The human rights commission and minority commission should register suo motu complaints against the principals and CDCs [college development committees] for violating the fundamental rights of the concerned students and initiate actions at the earliest,” the organisation said.
The study by the PUCL said that security measures put in place in educational institutions on account of the court case made students fearful of going to schools and colleges. It also took note of instances where Hindu boys allegedly posted threatening messages on WhatsApp groups.
The study quoted a student as saying: “They said that they wanted to punish us and kill us, and other similar threats.”
Students also told the organisation that some boys harassed them in public and used words such as “O Hijab” and “O Burkha” towards them. According to the study, some colleges perpetuated the harassment rather than protecting the students.
The PUCL report quoted a student as saying: “When the principal sees us, he admonishes us, asks me why we continue to study here. Why we continue to wear the hijab, and other such taunting questions.”
Hijab ban case
A controversy had erupted after, in December and January, a group of Muslim students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi city were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in hijab. The students staged a protest, and similar demonstrations were held in other parts of Karnataka.
Hindu students and mobs of men protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes. 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.
On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.
On March 15, the Karnataka High Court had upheld the state government’s ban on hijabs in schools and colleges and held that headscarves were not essential to Islam.
A group of petitions challenging the High Court order are pending before the Supreme Court.