College bans Muslim headscarf

First year B Com student not able to attend classes for past 10 days

The college authorities’ action might appear to be one-off, but it has larger implications for the constitutional principles of secularism and equality.

The action has been directed against a sole student, though there are reports that it was imposed on other Muslim girls, who conformed to it.

Aysha Ashmin, 19, a first year B Com student of Sri Venkatraman Swamy (SVS) College, run by the SVS Vidyavardhaka Sangha at Vidyagiri in Bantwal, was warned by principal Dr Seetharama Mayya that she should not try to sit in classes donning her headscarf. It is learnt that the ban on burqas and headscarves has been in place for some time.
Speaking to Deccan Herald, Ashmin said she has not been able to attend classes for the past 10 days because of the ban.

Daughter of B Mohammed of Panemangalore, Ashmin said the principal’s action was inexplicable considering the fact that no objections were raised when she wore a burqa  (hijab) when she was interviewed on July 11.

“But two days later, they (the principal and the lecturers) warned me not to wear the burqa inside the class. So I stopped wearing the burqa and instead started wearing churidar with a scarf around my head,” Ashmin said. However, Aysha’s parents were summoned to the college by the principal on August 6 when she was “restricted from entering class wearing the headscarf as well”. Because of the principal’s ban, Aysha has not only missed classes, but also an internal examination held on Monday.

This incident is reminiscent of former French president Jacque Chirac’s 2003 landmark directive that imposed a proscription on “conspicuous” religious signs in schools, including Muslim headscarves.

However, in Aysha’s case, not only the decision to enforce the ban has caused anguish, the mental torture by fellow students has left her heart broken.

“They challenged me that they will wear saffron shawls, if I did not stop wearing the scarf. I do’t have any prejudice for saffron colour,” she said, pleading that the college allow her to wear the scarf as prescribed by her faith.

Aysha recalled she wore the burqa while studying at the Women’s Islamic PU College in Thokkottu near Mangalore.

Mayya said the restriction was imposed apprehending an “external” threat. “We are implementing the instructions of the management,” he added. When asked if the management acted under pressure from Hindutva organisations, Mayya only said “certain organisations” had sought the ban. He said the decision was not given in writing to Aysha, adding that the management was contemplating introducing a dress code for the college.

It is learnt that Mangalore University, to which the college is affiliated, had not issued any circular in respect of a dress code. When contacted, vice-chancellor Prof K M Kaveriappa asserted that no instructions have been issued on a dress code.

DH News Service

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