Mumbai college bans hijab, demands students wear ‘decent’ clothes

After the junior college banned the burqa and implemented a uniform in August 2023, the Acharya Marathe College once again demanded a ban on burqa and other clothes. Students have written to the administration and human rights commissions and demanded their rights not be violated.
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The Acharya Marathe College in Mumbai’s Chembur has introduced a new dress code for its degree college students which includes a ban on burqas, niqabs, hijabs. It includes a ban on ‘revealing clothes’ as well as on other clothes that may bare some identity like badges, caps, or stoles. 

This follows last year’s implementation of a uniform policy for junior college students by the college, which also prohibited burqas and hijabs on campus in August 2023. The dress code now introduced by the college is said to be implemented from the new academic year. It also instructs students that if they are wearing any of the prohibited items, then they will be given a common room in the college on the ground floor to remove them. 

A student was seen telling the media that Muslims were specifically told on a WhatsApp group that from now onwards hijab, burqa, and even kurta-pyjama (for men) would not be allowed in the college. The student also told the media that no official notice has been given as of yet. 

As per a report, over thirty students have submitted a letter to the college, urging it to reconsider the dress code. They also approached national and state human rights commissions to challenge the policy as they say the order violates their right to choose as well as the right to religion guaranteed by the constitution. 

As per a report in the Hindustan Times, when a resident activist spoke to the college administration informing them that the ban on the burqa will deter Muslim women students from attending college, the college responded that the burqa is a ‘barrier’ to education. 

In response to the outrage, the college has staunchly defended the dress code by stating that it aims to increase campus placements and promote ‘etiquette’ among students by encouraging them to dress in ‘decent’ outfits. The newspaper contacted the college’s principal who responded that she cannot comment right now. 

Subodh Acharya who is general secretary of the college’s governing council and a Shiv Sena leader told Free Press Journal, that it was a question of the students’ ‘future’, “We want to increase college placements. If the students go to seek jobs in burqa, will they be considered? Students should be imbibed with values and etiquette – how to live and behave in society,”

In August, 2023, a similar ban was issued by the junior college at the same institute. Young Muslim students who sought to come to study and observe their religion by wearing the burqa or hijab were banned from entering the college premises. The college administration had also promised disciplinary action against them. 

In 2022, after a government order, the Karnataka government, led by the BJP, had banned the hijabs in government colleges across the state. The ban came after hijab wearing students were denied entry into classes at a pre-university college in Udupi in December 2021. After this incident, demands to ban hijab were made by students from the ABVP. This had led to over 1000 Muslim women students being forced to drop out from the college, according to a ground report. To this day, despite the change in government, the ban still remains. Furthermore, the newly elected Rajasthan government led by the BJP has also seemed to be toying with the idea of hijab ban. Recently, hijab wearing students were called “chambal ke daaku” by their teachers and were prevented from entering the school premises in the state after a video of the students went viral. 


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