Hijab Ban: Muslim Girls Deprived of Right to Education, says PUCL Report

The report shows the social and psychological impact such a verdict has on the community when the state, police and college administration maintains suspension of rights in the garb of law and order

Muslim Girls

For last eight months, Karnataka and the rest of the country is witnessing the spectacle of Hijab ban in schools in Karnataka. Not just the schools, colleges but police, administration, high court, state government but even Supreme Court either added fire or were mute spectators for the harassment and apathy that the Muslim girls had to go through.

High Courts’s orders and Karnataka govt. notification gave a free hand to vigilante elements to vilify and harass and prevent muslim girls from accessing education.

PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) Karnataka has come with a report on the impact of the HC verdict on the affected students– educational, social, and psychological and the violation of constitutional rights.

According to the report, the decision of the state government of Karnataka to impose a ban on Muslim women students wearing the hijab while attending classes has deprived, at one stroke, the right to education, the right to expression and other associated rights, and has even imperiled their security.

The report is based on the visits by members of the team as they travelled to different districts of Karnataka, understanding the testimonies of women who have been denied their right to Education and other rights associated with the right to education.

The report provides critiques of the judgment of the case of Resham v State of Karnataka heard in the High Court of Karnataka. The critique looks at critical rights and freedoms related to the case and highlights the incorrect focus on the Hijab as Essential Religious Practices. The sections point out the folly in the judgment in prioritizing the sanctity of maintaining a “uniform” as an essential feature of a school at the cost of ensuring education with reasonable accommodation for people of minority communities and freedom from discrimination, which arise from constitutional principles in educational spaces. The report points to the various ways in which the parties affected by the judgment were excluded.

students

The PUCL team also studied the role of media, the role of the bureaucracy and how the whole situation led to the violation of rights.

The analysis of the media shows how local media coverage of the event fanned the flames of hatred against women seen wearing headscarves, and in certain cases harassed women on their campus.

One major feature is the lack of democratic structure in the case of College Development Committee (CDC). CDCs often acted as authoritarian bodies without any concrete systems of accountability or representation of local stakeholders.

How Police Administration played out?

Often local police would add to the stifling of the community. The report documents how police presence on college campuses would instill a culture of fear among students found wearing hijabs and would often prevent any expression of dissent by the local community. Police deployment was focused more on ensuring enforcement of the order than ensuring the security of the students. The section points to two broad trends, one starting before the passing of the Interim Order where a vilification campaign against the students developed without hindrance, and a second phase beginning with the passing of the Interim Order where the government machinery took part in the campaigns for the exclusion of Muslim women.

Concerns Among Muslim Girls 

Many women documented their struggles and worries regarding their educational future, covering issues of access to educational certificates, harassment and safety within the college campuses.Concerns regarding the wider society isolating Muslim women from public spaces enforced by threats of assault reversing the earlier trends of empowerment of Muslim Women was also highlighted in the testimonies. The psychological concerns focused on the feelings of fear and panic engineered by the ban.

The report also focuses on the Rights associated with education and looks at how associated rights, i.e.: Rights that are essential to fulfill the right to education and to partake in educational spaces as full human beings, have been attacked. These include the Right to Education without discrimination, Right to Dignity, Right to Privacy, Right to Expression, Right to Non-Discrimination, and Freedom from arbitrary state action.

The report also highlights on how the ban has threatened the very constitutional ideals. In this situation of a complete failure of the state government to fulfill its obligation to protect constitutional morality, it falls on citizens to then do so. Nobody has done so with more grace, dignity and courage than young Muslim women who have asserted their right to education.

All the testimonies by students across the state echoed the same sentiment that the solution to these problems is the enforcement of the promises of the Indian Constitution to protect their rights to a dignified life within an educational space.

students

The report ends with a list of recommendations by the team that would take the state in the direction of addressing the loss of rights.

Recommendations

  1. First and foremost being the immediate cancellation of the Government Notification dated 05.02.2022.
  2. It also recommends that the court must issue a directive to the government to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into lost years and expenses incurred as a result of this order and ensure that compensation to the women and their families is paid.
  3. The government must allow the students to enter the classrooms immediately, and in consultation with students, arrange special classes for them. The State Human Rights Commission and Minority Commission should register suo-moto complaints against the principals and CDCs of colleges for violating the fundamental rights of the concerned students and initiate actions at the earliest.
  4. The Karnataka government must take adequate measures to strengthen a secular and non-discriminatory learning environment within colleges, allowing the students to express their faith and identity fully and ensuring that such shocking violations do not recur.

The court must issue a directive to hold CDCs accountable, by both:

  1. Making the CDCs truly representative, to be accountable to all of the different stakeholders, including members of all communities, students, non-teaching staff, teaching staff, members of civil society, and women.
  2. Conducting an inquiry into cases where the CDC had overstepped its mandate and not provided appropriate forms of redress, in writing, to students and parents who have raised concerns and initiate actions against them.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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