'Why not turban, bindi, cross': Hijab arguments play out in K'taka HC

He said, no other religious symbol is considered in the Government Order, why only hijab? Discrimination against Muslim girls is purely based on their religion, he said.
Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court

Bengaluru

Why is only hijab not allowed inside classrooms, why not a crucifix, why not turban, why not bindi, submitted senior advocate Prof Ravivarma Kumar on Wednesday to the three-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court constituted to look into the petitions filed on hijab row.
He said, no other religious symbol is considered in the Government Order, why only hijab? Discrimination against Muslim girls is purely based on their religion, he said.
He further said that there are hundreds of religious symbols and why is the government picking on hijab only? Hindus and Sikhs have their own religious symbols, then why only pick these poor Muslim girls? Is it not because of their religion, senior counsel Kumar argued before the bench.
"We (Muslim girls) are punished right away, can they be called teachers for shutting us out of class and made to stand on the road? It is full of prejudice," he said.
"The goal of education is plurality, not to promote uniforms. The classroom should be a reflection of the diversity of the nation, the point which is recognized by the Supreme Court. Maintaining heterogeneity and unity in diversity and plurality of the society is the motto of education. The validity of the Right to Education Act has come under challenge," he submitted.
"If people sporting turban can be in the Army, what prevents these girls wearing hijab from attending classes? Students wearing dupatta, bangle, bindi, crucifix under the neck and as pendants, are not being sent out of classes, why only these girls? This is a matter which comes under Article 15 which talks about discrimination on the ground of religion," he submitted, adding that even police force was used against Muslim students.
"The School Development and Management Committee (SDMC) is not recognized under the Education Act. As per the guidelines of the department, prescription of uniform is illegal. The guideline also makes an emphatic statement that the school/college Principal would be proceeded against if he insists on uniform. But, here, they are against wearing hijab," he said.
Pre-University College education is the backbone of student's life. SDMC is formed mainly to utilize the funds, maintaining academic standards and creation of infrastructure. Such a body is entrusted with the police power to discipline students. The College Development Committee has no power to prescribe uniforms. MLA is being made the chairman of CDC. The order says the committee is subordinate to the government. Can MLA be subordinate to the government? Basic quality of democracy is accountability. It is not stated that to whom MLA is accountable? MLA or MP could not be entrusted power under the Act, he explained.
He underlined that MLA belonging to any party will be a representative of a political party and political ideology. "Can we entrust responsibility of students welfare to a party representative or the representative of an ideology? With all humility I submit that the constitution of the committee is a death blow to Indian democracy. Order delegating powers to them should be ignored," he submitted to the bench.
Intervening the counsel, Justice Krishna S. Dixith said that the bench would not allow such a thing to happen in this case. Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi questioned whether maintaining uniform is not maintaining academic standards?
Kumar submitted in his concluding remarks that Muslim girls are least educated, least number of girls are coming to classes. If they are sent back, it is going to spell doom for them. Senior advocate Yusuf Muchchala who appeared from Mumbai for petitioners submitted that the girls think wearing hijab as their right and it has to be respected by the government.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice Khaji Jaibunnesa Mohiyuddin adjourned the hearing till Thursday.

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