Muslim groups declare Karnataka bandh on 17 March against hijab ban, HC verdict

Muslim groups in Karnataka on Wednesday announced a state bandh on Thursday, 17 March to protest the Karnataka High Court verdict which upheld the hijab ban in the educational institutions in the state.

“We urge all Muslims and like minded people to participate in the bandh on protest of the verdict which we believe against the soul of Indian Constitution,” said Maulana Sagheer Ahmed Rashadi, Karnataka Ameer-e-Shariat.

Rashadi who said they expect voluntary participation of the people in the protest, further appealed: “We urge people, especially youth not indulge in any anti-social activity and do not force anyone to close the shops.”

Meanwhile, videos show that Muslims in Bhatkal region have shut their shops for a day in support of hijab-wearing Muslim students and against judgment of Karnataka High Court.

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday upheld the State government order effectively banning the wearing of hijab by Muslim girl students in educational institutions in Karnataka.

“Hijab is not a part of essential religious practices of Islam and thus, is not protected under Article 25 of the Constitution,” said a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi.

Accordingly, the Court has dismissed the petitions filed by Muslim girl students, challenging the action of government PU colleges in denying their entry for wearing hijab.

Muslim students in Karnataka have been protesting the ban on hijab in educational institutions, saying the Islamophobic move of the Karnataka government violates their religious freedom guaranteed under India’s constitution.

Muslim students, activists, and Opposition leaders across the country allege that these attacks on Muslim symbols and practices are part of the larger Hindutva agenda of imposing majoritarian values on the country’s 200 million Muslims.

Soon after the verdict, Muslim students in Karnataka who have been fighting against hijab ban, Muslim leaders, human rights defenders, Opposition parties said the verdict is enabling discrimination against Muslim students and it suspends the fundamental rights of hijab wearing students.

Hours after the Karnataka High Court delivered its 129-page judgment, a Muslim student from the state approached the Supreme Court against the order, saying it had “failed to note that the right to wear a hijab comes under the ambit of ‘expression’ and is thus protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution”. The student, Niba Naaz, said in her plea that the right to wear a hijab is also protected by right to conscience under Article 25 of the Constitution, which is an individual right, and that the ‘Essential Religious Practices Test’ ought not to have been applied by the High Court.

The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to grant urgent hearing to the petitioners challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict which upheld the Hijab ban in the state. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde had mentioned the matter before the court today. The Apex court said it will post the matter post Holi recess.