Forcing Dress Code on Muslims part of BJP Poll Plan?
The recent ban on wearing the hijab in some educational institutions in Karnataka is part of a larger design to strip Muslims of their rights, says
IN THE aftermath of the attack on some youngsters ‘partying’ at a home-stay in Mangalore on 28 July, public pressure has forced the BJP government to arrest 22 activists of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike. While the attack is seen as a prepoll strategy by the BJP to mobilise its core votebank, the home-stay attack signifies that the BJP’s Hindutva project in coastal Karnataka has entered a new phase of extreme radicalisation.
Last week, the Vivekananda Vidyavardhaka Sangha group of institutions (VVS Puttur, Dakshin Kannada) issued instruc- tions to its students and staff to wear tilaks, earrings and bangles while attending classes. The diktat issued by the management extends to minority students and college staff. While wearing the tilak and bangles is encouraged by the management under the garb of promoting ‘Indian’ values, any display of hijab (headscarf ) or burqa is banned in the 41 institutions (from preschool to engineering) run by VVS, on the grounds that it is not part of its prescribed ‘uniform’. VVS Secretary E Shivaparasad says, “Ours is an institution based on the principles and teaching of Swami Vivekananda. And it is our duty to promote and inculcate among our students a spirit of Indian values and culture.” When questioned about the headscarf ban, he says, “It goes against the uniform dress code, hence could not be allowed.”
For the past three years, several private institutions in coastal and Dakshin Kannada have disallowed Muslim girls from wearing the burqa, and now even the headscarf, though they have refrained from issuing any official instruction or mentioning it in their prospectus. Interestingly, the first to impose such a ban was a Christian institution, St. Agnes College, followed by St. Anne’s and St. Aloysius College in Mangalore. A guest lecturer at Mangalore University, who was earlier offered the job of an Assistant Professor at St. Aloysius, says of her meeting with its principal: “They asked me to meet the principal Swebert D’Silva. He told me that as per rules, I cannot teach wearing the burqa. When I asked if I could wear a coloured scarf, he flatly said I couldn’t.”
When contacted by TEHELKA, Swebert D’Silva maintained that, “the ban is imposed only in the classes and examination halls. They are free to wear what they want in the campuses”. Reasoning the ban, D’Silva says, “During examination, students can smuggle in gadgets and notes. As a rule, we have asked them to keep their heads uncovered.” At the same time, he added that there should be uniformity in classrooms. Since 2008, more than 15