Five professors of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore have written to the National Commission for Women regarding the harassment faced by Muslim students in Karnataka in light of the ongoing hijab row. The issue, which has made headlines not only across the state but across India and even reached the Supreme Court, is currently being heard by a three-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court. In an interim order, the HC has barred wearing of religious attires like the hijab or saffron shawls on campus till a further order.
The faculty members, Ritwik Banerjee, Deepak Malghan, Dalhia Mani, Prateek Raj and Hema Swaminathan, in their email to Rekha Sharma, the Commission Chairperson said, “We urge the National Commission for Women (NCW) to exercise its powers and urgently take suo moto cognisance of reports of intimidation of Muslim women students based on religious attire. Women across all religions face patriarchal restrictions of one kind or the other. Certainly, we cannot condone such practices and we must work with men, women, and religious leaders to bring about change. But to single out one religious practice is not acceptable.”
The petition addressed to the NCW by the IIM-B professors noted that the Karnataka High Court is hearing the issue but expressed their concern about the threat to safety and dignity of the Muslim women in the current context.
They said the “atmosphere of fear and intimidation” will make the parents of these students hesitate about sending them to school and the government’s mission of educating girl children. “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao will be an abject failure, not just for Muslim girls, but for girls across all communities. Failure of law and rule of intimidation affects everyone,” they said.
They also quoted the NCW mission statement of “enabling women to achieve equality and equal participation in all spheres of life by securing her due rights and entitlements..” and urged that the NCW take urgent steps in this regard. Due to the tensions and minor violence surrounding the issue on Tuesday, February 8, schools and colleges were shut down by the state government from February 9 to February 11.