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This article was first published 2 years ago  » News » Hijab row: '50-50 fault with both sides'

Hijab row: '50-50 fault with both sides'

Last updated on: February 15, 2022 16:01 IST
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'Definitely it is being orchestrated.'
'Political parties are indulging in it and trying to gain some points from communities and vote banks they depend upon for their political survival.'

IMAGE: A confrontation erupts between students wearing a hijab and another group of students wearing saffron stoles on the college campus at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in Udupi. Photograph: PTI Photo

Independent Lok Sabha MP from Mandya Sumalatha Ambareesh cautions Karnataka politicians from inflaming passions.

"Starting something like this is very easy, stopping it is not going to be so easy. They have opened the dam and now who's going to control the flow, the floods; it's not that easy," tells Prasanna D Zore/ The first of a two-part interview:

Is the law and order situation in Karnataka worrying in the light of the anti-hijab protests?

If you go by what the electronic media is showing then you will think that there is much more happening in the state, then what the actual ground situation is.

There have been a few incidents (of protests against hijab-wearing students) in a few towns in few colleges in Karnataka, not everywhere. I think if the situation were out of control, the government would have taken some stringent steps.

I think, unless the political parties are going to make an issue or instigate or provoke people into something, which generally is what happens, (the situation will remain under control). I think people are waiting for the court's (Karnataka high court) decision.

We need to be more careful after the high court gives its decision.

If the situation is under control, why did the Karnataka government declare a three-day holiday in schools and colleges?

It is only a precautionary measure. That's what I'm assuming. I really don't know what made them take the call, but this is what I assume.

The situation is tense, tensions are rising and when faced with each other (the pro- and anti-hijab protesters) you never know what it might lead to. So as a precautionary step, they've done this (declared a three-day holiday in schools and colleges).

Do you believe the Karnataka high court decision will put a lid on this controversy? Will there be no protests, by any party, after the decision, whichever way it goes?

This is a very hypothetical question and I don't know how to react to it. We will have to wait and see what happens. Depends on what kind of verdict the court is giving, but either ways it's not going to please everybody. Maybe, protests will continue for a few days after the verdict and then die down.

I have a strong feeling these are all being orchestrated.

Who is engineering these protests?

I wouldn't want to say who, but definitely it is being orchestrated and political parties are indulging in it and trying to gain some points from communities and vote banks they depend upon for their political survival.

Who benefits from such social and religious divisions?

I don't need to answer this question because it's very obvious. Any political party banks on certain vote banks and when that happens they try to polarise and strengthen their vote base.

I would say most parties indulge in this (religious and social polarisation). It's not like anybody's left out.

Are Mandya and Udupi being tested as laboratories by Hindutva organisations to further deepen the religious divide between Hindus and Muslims?

I wouldn't agree with that totally because I have first-hand information. I have been in touch with the principal of that particular school in Udupi as well as Mandya being my constituency.

I have spoken to the principal of PUC (pre-University College) (in Mandya) as well and I know what has happened.

I have seen more footage than what has been shown on majority of TV channels. So I happen to have a very clear picture.

However, I do not want to start another controversy or provoke anybody by saying what I have exactly seen there.

It is 50-50 (both the sides to this issue are responsible) I would say. The fault cannot be with one side and the other side can be given a clean chit.

The mistake is happening from both sides. The point is who started it.

I will tell you briefly what I have spoken and what feedback I got from both the schools and colleges.

In Udupi, the government PUC where these protests started first, they had taken a decision that all students will wear a particular uniform just so that everybody feels equal and nobody is trying to segregate anybody else.

Everybody had agreed to this rule and everything was going on peacefully.

One should question why when there are elections around the corner do these controversies erupt.

Apparently, on December 27, 12 girls came into the school wearing hijab.

These 12 girls were not wearing hijab to college before December 27, 2021?

No. This is the version I got from the principal (of Udupi college where protests first began). That is when the principal object to it. He told these students that they can come wearing their hijabs to school, but remove them before entering their classrooms.

In fact, earlier too some students would do exactly this. They would come to college wearing hijabs, put them in their bags while in the classroom and again wear them while going home and nobody had any problem with that.

When the principal asked them to do it, these girls approached the principal with their parents the next day. The principal convinced the parents and they went back convinced.

After that, six girls came back to the college wearing hijabs and insisted that they be allowed to wear hijabs inside the classroom too. That is when the school felt they were defying the school's orders.

The next day these girls brought their uncles and lawyers, but not parents. Out of over 100 Muslim girl students in that college, only these six or seven were creating an issue.

Maybe, the school could have handled it more sensitively, and that could always be a matter of debate and hindsight advantage too, but that didn't happen. And then the next day the media came in and, of course, it was fodder for them to make it sensational.

That's how it (the protests by students wearing saffron shawls or turbans) and it caught on to places like Mandya.

I would not condone how those boys heckled this girl student (at the Mandya PUC) for whatever the reason. Heckling a girl, with or without hijab, or jeans or whatever, is not acceptable to me at all being a woman.

I called the principal of this school and asked him to take strict action against these boys. If they had any objection, they could always stand outside and protest peacefully. Heckling a girl is not acceptable at all and very disturbing.

What has happened already was wrong, but what is happening as a reaction to that is also wrong.

But he (the principal of the Mandya college) says, his version is this and you better listen to this carefully and that's why I am getting the idea that this is all being orchestrated.

Apparently, Muskan, the girl at the centre of this viral video, parked her bike inside the college compound. The boys were just standing at the gate and chanting 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans not at her, but to protest against the Udupi incident.

This girl after parking her bike instead of walking towards her class she walked towards them and shouted 'Allahu Akbar'.

The video that has gone viral shows the girl was walking towards the classroom, but these boys followed her and heckled her in an intimidating way. The video doesn't support the principal's claims.

Right, because this video doesn't show that (when the girl walked towards the slogan-shouting boys at the gate and shouted Allahu Akbar) bit. It doesn't show that bit.

Is it that the video which is going viral on social media is edited to show that the boys directly charged at the girl?

I am just telling you what the principal told me. It is not that I was there or you were there (when this incident took place).

This is what the principal told me that the boys were not creating any trouble. They were standing at the gate and shouting 'Jai Shri Ram' and the girl shouted 'Allahu Akbar' and maybe it appeared more than what it was.

Having said that, I am not condoning the behaviour of the boys. They are still wrong. Under no circumstances or provocation can any girl be heckled like this girl was heckled.

It is condemnable and I condemn it strongly. Intimidation and heckling is not done.

You can protest for whatever you want, but this is absolutely condemnable. I wouldn't agree to this way of protest under any circumstance. That disturbed me a lot and that's why I called the principal and told me very sternly that this type of hooliganism cannot be allowed again.

I haven't seen this kind of protests all these years.

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