Several film personalities have voiced concern over the ongoing hijab row in Karnataka. The issue began in December 2021, when six students at Government PU College for Girls in Udupi, Karnataka were prohibited from attending classes while wearing a hijab.
Hijab is a type of veil/headscarf worn by Muslim women as part of their religious belief. The college’s management objected to the students wearing it, claiming that it was against the institution’s dress code. Even as the students who were not allowed to attend the classes stood their ground and protested, further controversy erupted when several Hindu students in different colleges in the state began turning up wearing saffron shawls. They were also recently barred from entering the college premises.
Recently, a video went viral on social media, where a female student coming to college clad in a burqa is seen being heckled by a group of male students waving saffron scarves. While the men shouted slogans of Jai Shree Ram, the girl retorted with Allahu Akbar.
Following this, several film personalities took to Twitter to condemn the attack on the girl and to voice their concern over the hijab row.
Actor-producer Richa Chadha wrote, “Raise your sons better! A bunch of ugly, cowards attacking a lone woman in a pack and feeling proud of it? WHAT LOSERS! Shameful. They’ll be jobless, more frustrated and penniless in a few years. What poor upbringing! No sympathy, no redemption for them. I spit on your kind.”
Actor Swara Bhasker termed the incident a “shameful state of affairs.” She also shared a news article about the hijab-wearing students at the Udupi college being allowed back in but made to sit in separate classrooms, and wrote, “Apartheid/segregation waali feeling aayi.” (Feels like apartheid/segregation.)
Actor-politician Kamal Haasan tweeted in Tamil, “What is happening in Karnataka is worrisome. A religious wall is being erected between innocent students. What is happening in our neighbouring state should not happen in Tamil Nadu. It is time for progressive forces to be more wary.”
Filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan also shared the viral video and wrote, “Genocide is at the doorstep. It’s not just on Muslims (and Dalits) to fend for themselves. Progressive well-meaning Hindus will have to call out the hate within, demand accountability and force action! Your silent disassociation is meaningless.”
Sharing a representative viral drawing of a girl standing her ground against the intimidation of saffron-wearing men, cinematographer PC Sreeram, without taking any names, said, “They talk about development but end up doing what they are known for and what they have been doing whenever elections are around the corner. The fall is not far of.”
Naveen Mohamedali, director of the Tamil film Moodar Koodam, said in a tweet that he views both the thali (the sacred thread worn by married Hindu women) and the hijab as means of oppressing women. “But just as one cannot be compelled not to wear the thali, one cannot be prohibited from wearing the hijab. My mother, who was born a Muslim, did not wear the burqa. My wife, who was born a Hindu, refused to tie the knot,” he wrote, adding, in a follow-up tweet, that these decisions were made by the women themselves. “It is up to women to decide what to wear. Neither father/husband nor society has any say in this matter,” he wrote.
However, actor-politician Khushbu Sundar, who is currently affiliated with the BJP, sided with the authorities. She tweeted, “Education is not about religion, it’s about equality. I believe and am for wearing a uniform in school. The rules should be the same for all. Educational institutions are not to showcase your religion, but to show your strength as an Indian. Shame on those who play politics.”
In another tweet, she went on to say, “School is not a place to choose what you want to wear. It’s a place of discipline. Every educational institution should and must have a rule to show solidarity and respect towards learning. What you wear outside is your choice. In schools, respect the code of conduct. Respect learning.”
Meanwhile, the issue has been taken up in court. And on Wednesday, Karnataka High Court referred the case to a larger bench.