Students of Ancillary Medical Training School in Jammu have been asked to sign an affidavit barring them from wearing an abaya or a veil over their face during clinical training hours, Greater Kashmir reported on Sunday. An abaya is is a long, loose-fitting robe that may or may not cover a woman’s face.

“I will maintain the dress code as per the policy of the institution,” the affidavit reads. “I will maintain the code of ethics as per the policy of the institution, and I will not wear an abaya or cover my face during clinical postings.”

Students have criticised the medical school’s order. One of them said the “dictatorial order was “un-Islamic” and that students “will not do anything under compulsion”. Another student said they were scolded if they entered the institute’s premises wearing an abaya in the morning.

“This is a Muslim state,” a student told The Kashmir Monitor. “We have to abide by the principles of our religion. We are in a shock as we fail to understand the reason for such an order. This is not France, or any other foreign country. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti herself wears an abaya.”

Ancillary Medical Training School is affiliated with the Government Medical College in Srinagar. Its principal, Dr Razia Mahmood, defended the order saying professors were unable to identify the students during clinical trainings.

“They not wearing an abaya will help us,” she told The Kashmir Monitor. “They, too, will be able to do practical work properly.” The Greater Kashmir quoted the principal as saying that an abaya “can be a source of infection during work”, but she did not explain how.

The chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Commission for Women, Nayeema Mehjoor, said she will look into the matter.