ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Conservative Framing of the Hijab Issue and the Muslim Women’s Movement

Conservative and reactionary forces among Hindus and Muslims appear to be the major beneficiaries of the controversy over wearing hijab to schools. Such issues being the traps or detours laid by these forces, marginalised communities must choose their battlegrounds wisely. Instead of diverting the energy to the sectarian agenda of enforcing a dress code and perpetuating marginalisation, Muslim women’s movement should uphold the “Shaheen Bagh Spirit” of upholding constitutional values and unitedly fighting for rights and equality.


It all started in January 2022 when, in the Udupi district of Karnataka, schools and colleges reopened after lockdown, and six Muslim girls came to college wearing a headscarfhijab. The teachers and the principal denied entry with hijab, but the girls insisted on continuing with it. Initially, the issue was limited to these girls and the college administration. Later, the government also entered the scene, by issuing a notification on 5 February that a uniform is compulsory for all in the state-run colleges and schools, in accordance with Karnataka Education Act, 1983. The girls with hijab were subsequently not allowed to enter the college and they kept sitting at the gate. These girls challenged the act of prohibiting them and took the issue to the high court stating that it is a fundamental right to choose to wear the hijab.

At this stage, the Hindu right-wing outfits also took the opportunity to enter and staged protests with saffron scarfs and put up a counter demand to allow the same. The girls were also supported by a Muslim students bodythe Campus Front of India (CFI). It has been further revealed that there were efforts for solving the problem on the local level by local Muslim leadership through Udupi district Muslim Okkuta, an umbrella organisation of local mosques, jamaat, and Islamic organisations. But the agencies that fuelled the issue towards non-resolution include the parents of the three girls who were connected to the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) which is supposed to be the political wing of Islamic social organisation, Popular Front of India, the CFI leaders and also the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members in leadership positions on the college development committee (Sood 2022). This indicates the interested parties in this episode and how organised efforts are at work to precipitate this towards a conflict.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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