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Hijab Ban Severely Affected Students’ Mental Health, Learning Opportunities: PUCL Report

The PUCL report comes on the heels of an Indian Express report which shows that there was a 50 percent decrease in the admission of Muslim students in Udupi’s government Pre-University (PU) colleges

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The ban imposed on hijab by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka schools and colleges has severely affected Muslim students’ mental health as well as their access to learning opportunities, a report has found.

The report titled ‘Closing the Gates to Education: Violations of Rights of Muslim Women Students’ was released by the Karnataka chapter of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Monday, the birth anniversary of Fatima Sheikh, a social reformer and educator.

“Attendance of Muslim students in their examinations considerably declined under such compulsions. Yet, there were many more barriers that were placed on their path to higher education. These severely affected their mental health as well as their access to learning opportunities,” the report noted.

The PUCL report comes on the heels of an Indian Express report which shows that there was a 50 percent decline in the admission of Muslim students in Udupi’s government Pre-University (PU) colleges. The district was the epicenter of the campaign against hijab in the southern Indian state.    

The PUCL report documented the impact of the ban on hijab and cited testimonies of the state’s Muslim women students, who experienced harassment, humiliation and isolation.

Talking about the impact of the hijab ban, the students narrated what they went through during the campaign against them.

The report pointed out that the arbitrary and sudden implementation of the ban on hijab before the end of the academic year, especially during examinations, came as a shock to Muslim students across the state. 

“Almost all students interviewed by PUCL said that they had been wearing the hijab since they were ten years old and hence, being forced to remove the hijab in public places and their own educational institutions made them feel quite distressed, unsafe and humiliated,” said the report.

Talking about the situation, a student said: “The classroom has become an extremely horrifying space. There is a lot of hostility carefully cultivated in our colleges by rightwing forces. This has deeply affected Muslims, especially us women. Before we go to college, we make sure that none of us enters college alone, so we coordinate and call each other. It is very frightening to enter the campus alone.”

Muslim students faced extremely adverse situations. They lost their friends and were getting little or no help from the staff. They even received threatening messages.

“When we were getting threatening messages from Hindu boys, we felt very isolated. Before, we had good friends, but we lost all of our old friends because of this,” said a student.

Muslim students were made to sit in separate rooms. In Raichur, students told the PUCL team that in a few institutions, Muslim students were made to sit separately in a room where their names and signatures were noted in order to keep track of their attendance records. “This made us feel like we were being deliberately segregated for being Muslims. Some principals and lecturers even told us that we must either take off our hijab or stay back in the room and ‘think about it’.”

Many students got transferred to minority-run institutions because they felt safer and could continue wearing their hijab. In Udupi, a student said, “I feel safer among Muslims now, because nobody came to help when we students were in need.”

The PUCL urged the Karnataka government “to respond to the continuing violations of fundamental rights of young Muslim women.”

The rights group also noted that the split verdict of the Supreme Court delivered on October 13 has only prolonged the students’ longing for justice. The matter was placed before the Chief Justice of India to constitute an appropriate bench on that date. “There is an urgent need for the matter to be taken up expeditiously as Muslim women students continue to be denied their constitutional right to education, dignity and privacy,” the report noted. -IANS

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