Applications of over 1,000 Muslim women were rejected by the West Bengal Police Recruitment Board (WBPRB) because they were seen wearing headscarves (hijabs) in the photos that they had attached with their forms, reports say.
More than 30,000 students have been left out because of various reasons including mistakes made while submitting their forms, according to Clarion, a digital news platform. Among those left out are more than 1,000 Muslim women who had attached their head-covering photographs. According to WBPRB guidelines, “the photograph with face/head covering, sunglass/tinted glasses covering the eyes will not be accepted.”
The WBPRB is scheduled to conduct a preliminary recruitment examination on 26 September. It has already issued admit cards for the test.
“I have used my photo wearing hijab in the forms for several competitive exams. Nowhere it was rejected. The Police Recruitment Board is depriving me of my religious rights,” said Sonamoni Khatun, a resident of North 24 Parganas.
Another applicant, Tuhina Khatoon alleged she tried meeting the officer concerned in the WBPRB but was denied entry into the office.
The Muslim women candidates have written a letter to the WBPRB chairman and sought “a generous concession” to them on similar lines as made to candidates from the Sikh religious community, Clarion reported.
“We believe that the scope of Indian democracy is wide enough to accommodate all religious faiths and beliefs,” reads the letter.
Muslim organisations protest
In a letter to the West Bengal Police Recruitment Board chairperson in connection with the rejection of application forms, the West Bengal unit of Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) said it is Muslim women’s right to wear hijab and this must not be treated as a reason for rejection of their forms.
Another letter to authorities signed by representatives from the Welfare Party of India (WPI), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Popular Front of India (PFI), Fraternity Movement (FM), Campus Front of India (CFI) and All Bengal Minority Youth Federation (ABMYF) also demanded the immediate action.
Indian Secular Front MLA Naushad Siddiqui and AIMIM Leader Sabir Ghaffar met the board chairman to register their protest.