Wednesday, April 24, 2024

“It’s Islamophobia”: Rajasthan school students confront teachers demanding Hijab ban, resist Hindutva mob shouting slogans

On Saturday, February 17, multiple videos of Hijab-wearing students protesting outside a government school in Jodhpur’s Pipar town of Rajasthan surfaced on social media.

In the videos, these students can be seen confronting the school authorities for being barred from the school for wearing Hijab. 

The students also alleged that one of the teachers at the school called them ‘Chambal k daaku (Dacoit of Chambal)’ and told them that their marks in the upcoming board examinations would be reduced “if they continue to wear Hijab in the school.”

The matter ensued so much so that members of Hindu right wing organisations also got self-involved and later the district and school authorities had to intervene to resolve the matter.

Maktoob tracked down the students and their parents who had to go through the entire incident.

Saniya Khan, a student of 12th standard at the government higher secondary school number 2 in Peepar town where the incident unfolded was preparing herself for the morning assembly when all of a sudden a teacher barged into the classroom and pointed out Hijab wearing students and asked them to leave the school if they wanted to cover their heads.

Saniya told Maktoob, “I wear a Hijab to school every day, and nobody says anything to me or any other student who practices Hijab. But on Saturday, a teacher asked us to remove it.”

When asked about the teacher’s identity, Saniya refused and said, “She will reduce my marks if she finds out that I spoke with the media or disclosed her identity or the remarks she made.”

“The teacher told us – Chambal ke daaku ho kya jo ye pehen kar aate ho? (Are you a dacoit of Chambal that you wear this?)”, said Saniya.

Saniya further stated, “The teacher also threatened to deduct our marks in the upcoming board examinations if we resist her remarks or don’t remove our Hijab.”

She added that all the students started confronting the teacher about her “Islamophobic remarks,” but instead of being apologetic, she asked them to leave the school.

“So, we walked out of the school, called our parents, and then met with the school administration,” she said.

The female teacher, along with a male colleague who joined her, made “Islamophobic remarks,” as reported by students. When confronted by parents and school administration, they initially denied the claims but later acknowledged their “mistake.”

Upon the administration’s insistence, the teachers also promised to not repeat the same in the future.

Aqsa Bano, another student of standard 9th was awestruck with the entire incident and also joined the protesting students outside the school on Saturday. 

She has been studying at the school for the past four years alongside her three sisters but mentioned, “I have never encountered such a situation. No one has prevented me from practicing my religion in school, and we also have teachers who follow their own religions.”

Bano said to Maktoob, “Priyanka Madam is the one who teaches Hindi and instructed the senior students not to wear the Hijab. Today, she is threatening them with marks. Tomorrow, they might come to us.”

“When our parents confronted her, she lied, saying she didn’t say any of it. However, when all of us testified, she accepted it,” she said.

Bano explained the entire incident to her parents upon reaching home on Saturday. 

On Tuesday, 20th February, when her maternal uncle Mohd. Yunus went to see off the girls to school, he noticed members of right-wing organisations stationed outside, demanding to bar hijab-wearing students from attending.

Mohd Yunus said to Maktoob, “When other parents and I questioned their interference in the school, the group, comprising members from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shiv Sena, and Hindu Yuva Vahini, began chanting slogans. They said things like ‘BJP ka raj hai ab, bulldozer chalayenge, seedha kardenge’ (BJP is in power now, we will use bulldozers and set things straight) and ‘Congress ka Raj ni hai ab jo apni manmani karoge’ (There is no Congress rule now, so do as you please).”

Yunus along with other parents again met the school authorities demanding security for the students.

He said, “The school then contacted the district administration and ensured that there would be no disturbance outside the school.”

The parents including Yunus left the school relying on the school’s responsibility and assurance.

In relation to the entire incident, the school principal, known by his first name Ramkishor, filed a complaint at the Pipar City Police Station on February 20. The complaint alleges “obstruction in state’s official work” and “threatening” by 5-6 unknown individuals.

The complaint has been registered by the Pipar Police under sections 143, 353, 452 and 506 of Indian Penal Code 1860.

Maktoob spoke with the school Principal to learn about the incident.

Ramkishor refuted the entire Hijab remark incident saying, “nothing of this sort has happened.”

When informed about the videos floating on social media sites he accepted and said, “Yes a teacher said something to the students and later apologised. We have made the girls understand that they should abide by the school rules and come in uniform.”

“The police also came and it turned out to be a misunderstanding of the students,” he added.

However, he accepted that members of Hindu right-wing outfits gathered outside the school to demand the removal of Hijab-wearing students and that they raised “Islamophobic slogans”.

He said, “They were stopped from entering the school at the gate by the security.”

Abdul Kareem, who runs a chemist shop right in front of the school is a witness to the entire incident.

Kareem said, “I was opening my shop when a group of Hindu right-wing organisations gathered outside the school on Tuesday and were raising slogans. They were asking the school authorities to not let the Hijab-wearing students continue their studies or ask them to remove it.”

“They also tried to enter the school when the parents of the students were talking with the school authorities, but were stopped at the main entrance,” he said.

Ramkishor, the principal when asked about the complaint he has filed, said, “Some unidentified people entered the school when parents were meeting the school and the police administration made the video of the conversation and uploaded it on social media with an intent to malign the image of the school.”

He said, “They threatened me which created an atmosphere of work block in the school and we were unable to carry forward the conversation with the parents, students along with the police department.”

No arrests have been made by the Pipar Police so far in connection with the complaint. However, the parents of the students are wary that it is an attempt to frame them.

The father of a student, who asked for anonymity said, “Instead of taking an action against those who incited hate, the school administration filed a complaint against those who were inside the school.”

He said, “Undoubtedly there were parents inside the school who came to talk with the school authorities concerned for their kids’ safety since those who were spreading hateful sentiments were stopped outside.”

“The police will now arrest the parents,” he added. 

Maktoob tried to reach the Pipar Police to learn about the matter. Multiple calls made to them went unanswered. The copy will be updated as soon as we receive a response. 

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