NotA Statement on the Hijab Ban

— The NotA Collective

NotA strongly condemns the Hijab ban imposed by the Karnataka state government. We express solidarity with all the students who have been protesting this act of blatant exclusion and bigotry. These students have the good sense, virtue and courage to oppose this assault on their fundamental rights. We stand by them.

The ban restricts the student’s freedom to practise religion and denies them access to education. This is against the pluralistic values enshrined in our constitution. We live in a time when Islam is under constant assault by the ruling party. Now they have resorted to using students as tools of intimidation by poisoning young minds, clothing them in saffron and pitting them against their own peers. This reprehensible behaviour is yet another example of the regime’s agenda of exclusion. 

That the ban is an attack on the fundamental rights of young students is egregious by itself, but it is compounded by two things. First, by the unprecedented stress that students have had to face owing to the stop-gap nature of school during the CoVID pandemic. Second, by the fact that this is coming just a few months before exams — exams that often determine the students’ futures.

To those who are making this an issue of the practice of Hijab-wearing, we urge you to consider the context within which this ban and the many other actions have taken place. To have the ban divert attention from the country’s acute financial crisis and additionally lead into a conversation about Muslim religious practices is exactly what the fascists want. It doesn’t matter to them whether anti-Muslim sentiments are generated for woke reasons or for bigoted reasons. While there is no doubt that patriarchy must be struggled against, we urge you to ask yourself: is it possible to empower women by taking away education, for any reason? No. It is not. 

To the members of the Indian academy, we urge you all to not stay silent. There are Muslim students on your campuses. You need to assure them that they are free and safe to exist, study and work in our institutes. The Hijab ban is an endorsement of the kind of bigotry that the ruling party peddles on a constant basis. Bigotry of this nature can be enacted anywhere and everywhere. Yesterday, there was a flare-up in a small government-run college. Today, the same sort of ban is being implemented in schools and colleges across the country. Tomorrow, this bigotry can run roughshod over your school, college, or university campus. 

There is no development without education. There is no progress if women in India aren’t included in the education project. We shouldn’t let the forces of bigotry succeed in their quest. We must resist. 

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