The Indian government once again comes under heavy fire for allegedly extending its hijab ban to Jammu and Kashmir. To clarify, a school in Baramulla had asked its teachers to “avoid the hijab”.
Earlier this week, Dagger Parivaar School Baramulla issued an official order banning the wearing of hijab during school hours “so that students can feel comfortable and are forthcoming to interact with teachers and staff”.
“Trust must be established with students to make them feel welcome, safe, and happy,” the circular further added.
Interestingly, the school in question is for specially-abled children and the Indian Army’s Chinar Corps jointly runs it with a Pune-based NGO called Indrani Balan Foundation.
The circular went viral on social media and racked up immense criticism for the Indian government. Important to note that the Baramulla hijab ban comes after the controversial Karnataka hijab ban in India.
In short, in February, several colleges in India barred female hijab-wearing students from entering campuses. However, Muslim students asserted that they will not shun the hijab no matter what. As a result, Hindu students retaliated by wearing saffron shawls to schools and protesting against the hijab. This created a communal divide between student communities, leading to violent protests.
Therefore, social media is once again seething over the Baramulla school asking its staff to avoid the hijab, especially when Kashmir is already a victim of human rights violations by Indian forces.
Strong political reactions
The circular has turned into a major controversy in Kashmir. It also sparked strong political reactions. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti strongly condemned the circular.
“I condemn this letter issuing diktats on hijab. J&K may be ruled by BJP but it’s certainly not like any other state where they bulldoze the houses of minorities & not allow them the freedom to dress as they want. Our girls will not give up their right to choose,” Mehbooba tweeted.
I condemn this letter issuing diktats on hijab. J&K may be ruled by BJP but its certainly not like any other state where they bulldoze the houses of minorities & not allow them the freedom to dress as they want. Our girls will not give up their right to choose. pic.twitter.com/GpqX8UWv5k
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) April 27, 2022
Similarly, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said it was an attempt to gain political mileage.
“In this country, everyone has the freedom to follow his or her religion. It is enshrined in our constitution that we are a secular country which means all religions are equal. I don’t think any government should interfere in this.
Abdullah said it was wrong on part of the school to issue such a circular.
“The reason given is just not right. This school did not start yesterday. These teachers (who are wearing hijab) must have been interacting with the students earlier also. What changed overnight?” he asked.
School revokes ban
Following the intense backlash, the Indian Army issued a clarification. It said that there was a miscommunication, and instead of hijab, the word “veil” was to be written in the circular.
“Specially-abled kids have to learn phonetics and they need to see the face of teachers. Some teachers keep their faces covered, which makes it difficult for students facing problems in communication,” the officer told Indian media.
Later, the school issued an amended version of the notification with the word “veil” instead of “hijab”. However, the backlash was too intense and it revoked the ban altogether.
— Discover Kashmir (@TheKashmir247) April 27, 2022