The controversy initially erupted on January 29 when BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya visited a school and made a series of statements regarding the wearing of hijabs. According to Indian Express, Acharya had visited the Government Senior Secondary Girls School, Gangapol on January 26 as part of the Republic Day celebrations. The videos from the event show him telling people that the hijab should not be allowed in schools. He was also witnessed on stage making rounds with slogans such as “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Saraswati Mata Ki Jai.” He even stated that, “Some girls are not chanting it”, and asked, “Have you been asked not to?”
According to a report by Maktoob Media, Muslims students went and made a complaint at the police station after the incident stating that the MLA was spoiling the school atmosphere and that he must apologise for his statements. Following this incident, it was also reported by Maktoob Media, that scores of Muslim girl students from the Government Senior Secondary Girls School, Gangapol protested against the Acharya’s statements.
Similarly, reports have arrived of a committee drafting a detailed report on implementing a hijab ban in Rajasthan. The state’s education minister Madan Dilawar has unveiled plans to rigorously enforce a dress code for all students in government schools throughout the state.
A student stated, according to a report by The Wire, “What does he have to do to what we wear? We are coming here to study and we will study. We will not stop our protest till the Baba doesn’t apologise. He always targets Muslims, sometimes over meat, shops run by Muslims, now over hijab. Today he wants to end hijab in school, tomorrow he may stop us from wearing hijab in school. Muslim students at the school are being targeted. Wearing hijab is our right,” one of the protesting students told reporters on Monday.
Meanwhile, according to the report, Acharya is previously dealing with a case against him where he is accused of spitting on and assaulting a member from the Scheduled Caste community in Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, BJP minister Kirori Lal Meena tuned in by saying that the “hijab is a symbol of slavery brought in by the Mughals, and that he will talk to CM Bhajan Lal Sharma regarding the implementation of a ban on hijab. The demand for a dress code in schools been supported from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who has talked about the need for “discipline and equality” among students. Interestingly, in the midst of the din about hijab, The Mooknayak has reported about a girl named Tanjim Merani has launched a hunger strike in CM Bhajan Lal Sharma’s constituency against the wearing of hijab in educational settings. Her strike has so far received a 5 -day permission to be conducted at VT Ground.
However, hijab ban in India seems to be an attempt at stigmatising religious practices of Muslims. Muslim women have been prevented from accessing educational opportunities due to discrimination based on the wearing of hijab. Similarly, the hijab ban in government institutions was implemented in Karnataka by the then BJP government in the state. The ban saw widespread protests by Muslim students who argued that it was their fundamental right. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court who delivered a split verdict and referred to a larger bench for the matter. According to a survey by PUCL, the hijab ban led to over a 1000 Muslim women dropping out of educational institutes. The hijab ban has been unanimously protested in India. However, in countries such as Iran where it has been imposed as compulsory, women have opposed it stringently and the country has seen wide scale protests and disruptions by feminists and allies over the past few years.