‘We are challenging the rule that head covering in the photograph of the application will not be accepted’
Ahmed Kasim | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Around 10,000 emails, a petition in Calcutta High Court, an audience with a minister, social media campaign and uproar from activists failed to move the West Bengal Police Recruitment Board (WBPRB) to consider the demand of Muslim girls to accept their applications as the authorities went ahead with the exam on Sunday, September 26.
“We held protests, we wrote emails, we met officers and a minister, we sought an appointment with the chief minister but no one listened to our demand,” said Tuhina Khatoon, one of the aspirants whose applications were rejected because of “violation” of rules. “This is injustice,” she said.
The West Bengal Police Recruitment Board (WBPRB) Sunday held a preliminary examination to recruit constables and lady constables in the state police. The board had issued admit cards for this exam on September 6.
More than 30,000 students have been left out because of various reasons including mistakes made while submitting their forms. Among those left out are more than 1,000 Muslim girls.
The Muslim girl applicants have reportedly been found ineligible because they are seen wearing headscarves or hijabs in the photos that they attached with their forms. WBPRB guidelines say that faces of the applicants should not be covered in any way in the photos. The guidelines read: “Applicants are advised not to upload images of other objects in place of photograph and signature. The photograph with face/head covering, sunglass/tinted glasses covering the eyes will not be accepted. Photographs cropped from ‘groupies’ or ‘selfies’ shall also be disallowed during the scrutiny.”
This week five aggrieved girls moved Calcutta High Court, and filed a petition seeking redressal of their grievance. “We are arguing that any and every Indian, be it Muslim or Sikh or Hindu, has the right to practice his or her religion. As Sikhs can wear a turban why can’t Muslim women cover her head with Hijab” said Advocate Firdaus Shamim, representing the girls in the court. “We are challenging the rule that head covering in the photograph of the application will not be accepted. Covering of head by a constable does not diminish his or her proficiency and efficiency”
The petition cites Article 25 of the Indian constitution which guarantees the right to practice a religion.
Three days back, some of the girls sought an appointment with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee but the CM office declined their request citing busy scheduled of Banerjee who is on a campaign trail for byelections in the state.
The girls met Siddiqullah Chowdhury, a mister in the ruling Trinamool Congress. Though he assured them of taking up the matter with the officials concerned, yet he made a disappointing remark: “What job do Muslim women have in police.”
People who have come out in support of the girls are campaigning online, writing posts on social media appealing the authorities to allow Hijab wearing Muslim girls to sit in the exam.
At least 10.000 E-mails have been sent to the chief minister to consider the demand.“Such a decision in the police recruitment test is unconstitutional and interferes with religious freedom,” says one of the emails seen by Clarion India.
The girls say that they will struggle till the end. “What we are being subjected to is humiliation. We don’t want anyone to face it. We hope the court will give us justice,” said Khatoon. “Even if we fail to get in, we will struggle to ensure no one in the future has to face this.”