Separate Classes For Students In Hijab: When Communalism Puts Education At Stake

Karnataka Hijab Row
A college in Kundapur, Udupi in Karnataka has devised what it deems to be a solution to the hijab row. A group of Muslim women in headscarves, who were for days barred from continuing their classes, were reportedly made to sit in separate classrooms at Government Junior PU without any lessons. Reports quoting college authorities said this was done to “avoid crowding” at the gates.

This ‘segregation’ comes in the wake of agitation around college campuses in Udupi where many young women are being stopped from pursuing education, with authorities saying the hijab does not constitute a proper uniform, and Hindu students are reactively donning saffron scarves and chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’. Follow updates here.

It is appalling to witness education being staked at the altar of communalism, costing young women their dreams and futures. This, in a country that poses to give an active, necessary push to women’s education through schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. What do the unfolding events in Udupi stand for, if not the hypocrisy that makes an agenda out of a person’s gender and religious identity?

Should young women, in the 21st century, have to be fighting to assert their fundamental right of securing an equal and impartial education? Who will take accountability for the trauma they are being burdened with, simply for looking different from the majority?

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Students wearing Hijab made to choose between religion and education

Schools and colleges are sanctuaries of, not just education, but harmony. The world off-campus is forever at war but inside campuses, fenced in with equality and friendship, big ambitions run amok. It is here that girls with and without hijabs find hope and room to prepare themselves for successful careers, jobs, social positions at par with their male peers.

The opportunity to embolden self-belief and conviction in the power of acceptance is what educational institutions should seek to offer.

But what happens when that root core of impartiality is severed down the middle, ripping with it the identity of tens of students? The future of women will go dark if they are not only denied education but made to feel, through vile reiterations, that they are undeserving of it if they choose to dress a certain way. 

The secular liberties of the Indian state are what allow us to embrace our pluralism in peace. Do our leaders not deliver speeches at thousands-strong rallies robed in saffron garments? Or appear in public offices with skullcaps and turbans? If politics provides for the tolerance of multiculturalism, then how can something as fundamental as education be hostile to it?

Suggested Reading: Karnataka Hijab Row: Women Being Deprived Of Education For The Sake Of Agenda

Clothes that disrupt public order will be banned, the Karnataka government said in an official order Saturday, reacting to escalations in the hijab row. How ill-maintained is our law and order system that it cannot even promise security to women so that they can practice their religions in public?

Creating a schism between students of different faiths: Is the agenda of religious divide taking root in sanctuaries of education?

A woman’s garment is what it takes to shake the sensibilities of the status quo. It has always been this way. From a skirt to a bikini to ripped jeans, all women wear has always been subjected to policing lest it dismantles gender hierarchy. To patriarchy, these clothes aren’t built of threads but threats.

Colleges cannot claim to bolster values of equality by ensuring the uniformity of students. That is neither what equality means nor stands for. It is not because of but despite our differences that we all deserve to be treated impartially. Segregation on campus on the basis of religion is the beginning of a very steep slope that drops straight into doom.

Views expressed are the author’s own.