Karnataka Hijab Controversy

Political parties are exploiting "Hijab Controversy" to exploit inherited historic social fissures and fault lines of a pluralist society to spin and spiral irreparable social divides contra national unity, integration and security.

NewsBharati    09-Feb-2022 16:23:19 PM   
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By contrast with other South Indian States, Karnataka is simmering communal boiling cauldrons. And, its root cause is simple - hurt the psyche deep inside of Hindus due to Tipu's atrocities. Also, the rise of ethno nationalism was accentuated by vicious politics by rival political parties. For example, myriads of communal riots since 1970s include: Hubli riots in 1972 concerning the Idgah Maidan; clashes in Shimoga, Arsikere and Dharwad and later in Hubli in 1980s: 1986 Mysore riots; 1990 Kolar riots; 1993 Bhatkal riots - ISIS; 1994 Bhadravati riots; 1997 in Bangalore and Dharwad; 1998 in Hassan; Surathkal in December 1998; and so on.

Most importantly, the reasons for communal riots include: political parties rivalry in pursuit of polarization based on vote bank politics; land disputes like the Idgah Maidan, Hubli; land feuds between the Sahasrarjun Kshatriyan Samaj (Pattegars) and the Muslims in Mysore; Idol desecration/defiling places of worship; cow vigilantism; eve teasing; links with mafia; religious festivals, processions and flags; nationalism and patriotism markers like flag hoisting; spread of Hindutva; Linguistic chauvinism; anti-Urdu riots, anti-Mandal riots; settling private scores; political parties allow rivalry, both within the party and between parties to culminate into communal riots; rumors, media and so on.

As per the latest news in public domain, both the BJP and the Congress Party have received intelligence inputs on ­ Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Popular Front of India (PFI), Campus Front of India (CFI) and fringe groups responsible for creating the trouble in the four districts. The stakes are very high for both the ruling BJP and the Congress Party in the elections for State Assembly scheduled to be held in May 2023.
hijab controversy 

It is but natural for the ruling BJP to make all efforts to wrest power in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada aided by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal. Their effort is to construct an ethicist, exclusivist moral community of Hindus in the region based on Hindu vigilantism. Even the Congress Party can ill afford to lose its Hindu vote banks in the region.

The current eruption of the Hijab controversy needs to be reviewed in the above backdrop. In October 2021, pictures of a few Muslim students at the government PU College in Udupi with a CFI banner were shared widely on social media. A message with the photos read, “These students had participated in a protest without knowing that it is a protest by the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad). After CFI leaders counseled them today, they joined the group of their own volition.”

And, the CFI insists their protest is not political, but a fight for their fundamental rights. Now, the Hijab controversy is a political issue for the party. Political observers believe that the controversy is an opportunity for the CFI to take away the Muslim vote bank from the Congress Party.

In late December 2021, protests erupted in two PU colleges and spread to at least five educational institutions in Udupi district of Karnataka with the stopping students from entering the classroom for wearing the Hijab. As a reaction, other students belonging to the rival groups took to wearing saffron scarves. Some colleges have now reacted by banning the Hijab and the saffron scarf.

The ruling party MLAs played spokespersons for these institutions, and not the officials. While Udupi MLA K Raghupati Bhat spoke on behalf of the PU College, BJP MLA Haladi Srinivas Shetty spoke on behalf of the two colleges in Kundapur since they are part of the college development management committee.

Bhatt's involvement in the issue has deeper significance. For Bhat, the political issue raised by CFI is a strong opportunity to ensure getting the ticket in 2023. After winning only five out of 24 seats in coastal Karnataka in 2013, the saffron party bounced back in 2018 riding on a Hindutva wave. Bhat is aware that polarization would help him retain the seat. Bhatt's political rhetoric against the Congress party former chief minister Siddaramaiah on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Congress Party waded into the controversy after more colleges started barring students from entering premises. A leader working in the coastal region admitted that the party was confused over its response. “Initially, the decision was to let the controversy play out and move on,” the leader said, requesting anonymity.

With more colleges reporting such incidents, former chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah spoke out, saying that wearing the Hijab is a fundamental right. “We will wait and see how this will impact the Hindu vote bank of the party. It is very hard to predict the outcome now, but the party has a taken a definite stand now,” the leader quoted above said.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has jumped into the fray and stated that it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear, be it a bikini, a ‘ghoonghat’, or a ‘Hijab’. Unlike the SDPI and BJP, this controversy has affected Congress’ chances in the region. While in the other regions of the state, caste plays a major role, coastal Karnataka is dominated by communal politics.

Not to be seen left behind, JD (S) leader, H D Kumaraswamy, former Karnataka Chief Minister, leveled charges against both the BJP and the Congress Party for the widespread escalation of protests all over the State. No need for intellectual alacrity to predict their spill over into other States.

Nobel laureate and women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai tweeted "Refusing to let girls go to school in their Hijb is horrifying. Objectification of women persists — for wearing less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalization of Muslim women."

Also, Pakistan foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has sermonized "Denying Muslim women in India an education and the right to wear a hijab is “absolutely oppressive.” He forgets the atrocities carried out against Hindu-Sikh- Christian minorities in his own backyard. Time for him to realize that Pakistani's are split over the decision to wear "Burqas" and quite a few among them go around freely without the Hijab.

As per rumors afloat, there are many international actors who are aiding and abetting eruptions of crises in India with the end objective to defeating Modi at any cost. So, the ongoing Hijab crisis escalation is likely to go the "anti-CAA, Delhi Riots and Farmer's Protests" way.

Furthermore, Karnataka Govt invoked state law to back Hijab ban: ‘Don’t wear clothes that disturb law & order’. The justification given by the State Government is "not a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution." The ruling BJP has stood strongly in support of uniform-related rules being enforced by educational institutions, calling the headscarf, a religious symbol, while the opposition Congress has come out in support of protesting Muslim girls.

As per the lawyers representing the Muslim girl students wearing of Hijb is protected by the fundamental right to practice one's religion under Articles 19 and 25. So, any uniform code issued by the state government would not stand if students claim their constitutional right.”

However, the Supreme Court recently refused to entertain a plea of an Islamic organization that Muslim girl applicants be allowed to wear 'Hijb' (scarf), a customary religious dress, in the All India Pre-Medical Entrance Test on Saturday.
Sanjay Hegde, Senior advocate, appearing for Student Islamic Organization of India which filed the PIL, pleaded that the directions of CBSE's dress code, which have been made mandatory for entry in examination halls, were acceptable except the order that girls cannot wear head scarves. "Wearing a head scarf is an essential religious practice. The girls will be forced to abandon the examination," he said.

The three-judge Bench held that "Faith is something different from wearing some kind of cloth, and some reasonable restrictions were needed."We will not interfere with this kind of small issue," the bench said. Sensing the mood, Hegde offered to withdraw the plea which was allowed.

Finally, in several countries, adherence to Hijab has led to political controversies and proposals for a legal ban. Since 2005, France has banned overt religious symbols, including many religious head coverings, in public schools and government buildings. Belgium has joined France in banning religious head coverings. Syria and Egypt banned face veils in universities from July 2010 and 2015 respectively. In some Muslim states (like Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia) there have been complaints of restriction or discrimination against women who wear the Hijab. The Hijab in these cases is seen as a sign of political Islam or fundamentalism against secular government.

Also, 16 states that have banned the burqa (not to be confused with the Hijab), including Tunisia, Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Netherlands, China (in Xinjiang Region), Morocco, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland.

There are other countries debating similar legislation, or have more limited prohibitions. Some of them apply only to face-covering clothing such as the burqa, boushiya, or niqāb, while other legislation pertains to any clothing with an Islamic religious symbolism such as the khimar, a type of headscarf. Some countries already have laws banning the wearing of masks in public, which can be applied to veils that conceal the face.

India claims to be a "Secular" nation. If Muslim countries have banned the Hijab, why not in India. As per Islamic scholars, "it is not Haram to not wear a Hijab. The Hijab was mandated for the wives of the prophet Muhammad in order to designate them as such. It was not mandated for all women."

If Hijab controversy is highlighted by the media, then it is high time that all their "Anchors" must wear Hijab in the studio. Also, the demand will spill over to all other workplaces including the Armed Forces, Police Forces and even the Judiciary. It will take the Muslim women regressively into 13th century status. Will they accept? Priyanka Ghandy Vadra must also realize that her slogan "Ladki Hoon, Lad Saki Hoon '' is the worst fraud.

Regardless of the Karnataka High Court’s decision, the Hijab controversy will have a big impact in the ongoing 2022 elections but also in the scheduled 2023 assembly elections. In sum, Karnataka communal politics, particularly the coastal region, flows out of its historical background. Hindu's suffer from historic "hurt Psyche" due to past atrocities. All of them - Congress, BJP, SDPI-PFI-CFI (on behalf of the Social Democratic Party of India) - are accusing each other of politicizing the "Hijab episode".

Naturally, the BJP seizes every opportunity to consolidate its Hindu vote banks. By contrast, the Congress is trying to change the religious politics of the region to vote on the basis of caste, the Hijb controversy has changed the situation towards Hindu versus Muslim.

So, the "Third Round" violent protests of the current NDA rule will continue with disregard to national security interests particularly aided and abetted external adversaries - both non state and state actors. The ultimate objective of all adversaries is to destabilize and disintegrate India to usher Islamic State, and Khorasan - Islamic prophecy of Ghazwa-e-Hind.

Brig. G B Reddy (Retd)

G B Reddy, former Brigadier has seen frontline battles in India-China War in 1962, India-Pakistan War in 1965, and India-Pakistan War in 1971 (Liberation of Bangladesh). He has served in various insurgency areas to include Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and West Bengal at the height of Naxal problem; Punjab, J & K and IPKF in Sri Lanka.

Author of seven books and numerous articles covering national security strategy, international, national and local political and social developments, he participated in international and national seminars whilst serving as Consultant/Senior Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad. He also served in Corporate Assignments of Vice-President, Kitply Industries and C.E.O, Hilton Tobacco Ltd.

He is a Graduate of National Defense College, New Delhi, Command and Staff College in Canada, Long and Senior Defense Management Programs at College of Defense Management in Hyderabad. He has served on the faculties of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, College of Combat, and Infantry School, Mhow.

He was awarded Ati Vishist Seva Medal for Distinguished Service of an Exceptional Order in Nagaland 1986. Menitoned-in-Despatches for gallantry in 1971 war. Chief of Army Staff Commendation Medal in 1977 for exceptional contribution for faculty development.

Seven books published: 1) Rising Dragon – China’s Holistic Security Strategic Perspective; 2) Nation in Crisis – Dimensions of National Security and Terrorism; 3) In Search of National Values - Withering Democracy, Secularism and Socialism; 4) India’s Nuclear Dilemmas; 5) Fight Against Corruption and Leadership Decay; 6) Democracy in Peril; and, 7) Cost Effective Rural Housing Technologies.