Protests intensifies against Hijab ban in Karnataka state

BJP government close down schools in Southern state for three days after protests spread to more areas against Hijab ban in schools

The protests continue against the decision to ban the hijab for Muslim female students in the education institutions in Karnataka state. The BJP government in the state announced to close down schools for three days to stop the spread of the protests. The reactionary hardline Hindu groups are also organising protests with Saffron scarfs to mock the Hijab wearing Muslim female students. 

This ban has spread fear among the Muslim community in the state about the increasing persecution under BJP government. Fresh demonstrations on Tuesday saw police fire tear gas to disperse a crowd at one government-run campus, while a heavy police presence was seen at schools in nearby towns.

Karnataka Chief Minister belonging to BJP Basavaraj Bommai appealed for calm after announcing all high schools in the state would be closed for three days. Students at a government-run high school were told not to wear hijabs last month, an edict that soon spread to other educational institutions in the state.

Campuses have seen escalating confrontations between Muslim students condemning the ban and Hindu pupils that say their classmates have disrupted their education.

Rising intolerance against religious minorities, Islamophobia, and the ongoing hijab controversy in India’s Karnataka has sparked a tense situation when over 100 young male students wearing saffron scarves harassed and raised slogans against hijab wearing Muslim girls at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College (MGM) in Udupi today (Tuesday).

Students wearing the saffron scarves confronted  Muslim female students when they came out of their classrooms at the college.

"All of a sudden they are saying you are not supposed to wear hijabs, why did they start now?" said Ayesha, a teenage student at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in the coastal city of Udupi. Ayesha said a teacher had turned her away from her chemistry exam for wearing the garment.

"We are not against any religion. We are not protesting against anyone. It is just for our own rights," she told French news agency AFP.

Karnataka's top court began hearing a petition challenging the legality of the ban on Tuesday but adjourned before issuing ruling.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's extreme right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governs Karnataka state and several prominent members have thrown their support behind the ban.

Critics say Modi's election in 2014 emboldened hardline groups who see India as a Hindu nation and are seeking to undermine its secular foundations at the expense of its 230 million-strong minority Muslim community.

                                                                  Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor

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