Dress code unleashes furore

Dress code unleashes furore


Beyond the Veil: Muslim women in Mangalore protest the ban on headscarves Pic : Chandrahas Kotekar

Two years ago, when some Hindu activists began assaulting youth of a minority community for ‘talking’ to girls, peace-loving Mangaloreans were shocked. Close on the heels of such incidents, came the pub attack which put Mangalore in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

More recently, a Muslim student was told by her college that she would not be allowed to attend classes wearing a headscarf because many non-Muslim students had protested.

While Aysha Asmin (19), the first year BCom student, insisted that she would not stop wearing her headscarf and allleged that her fundamental rights had been threatened, some Hindu students reportedly threatened to wear ‘saffron shawls’ if the principal did not stop Aysha from wearing the headscarf to class.

Dr Seetharam Mayya, Principal, SVS College (Bantwal) admitted that he was under “tremendous pressure from an organisation to implement the ban” on the headscarf.

Pawns in a political game

The subsequent protests by students, most of them belonging to Muslim students’ organisations, and the reported threat calls to Bharath, the student leader who asked Aysha not to wear her headscarf, show how political outfits are trying to take control of campuses in Mangalore, the education hub of Karnataka.

“Aysha and Bharath are but pawns in a plan designed by two fundamental organisations. Bharath would not have pressurised Aysha without the strong support of ABVP. Likewise, but for the support of Jamat-e-Islami, Aysha would not have gone to the media, and later to the Vice Chancellor and the Deputy Commissioner,” claimed a student leader who did not wish to be named.

However, others blame the media for the brouhaha. “The media is making a mountain out of a molehill,” remarked progressive writer Sara Aboobacker, whose works deal with the complexities of life in middle and lower middle class Muslim families in coastal Karnataka. “If she (Aysha) did not want to obey the rules of the college, she could go to any other college. What is her problem when other Muslims are obeying the rules?” she asks. She says her daughter-in-law too is a lecturer in the same college but has never faced a problem.

Prof B V Raghunandan, lecturer, said an educational institution is above religion. “Such an incident only goves to show that real education hasn’t reached the students. What we have is career oriented education.”
The real crisis

“Our educational system should be admitted to the intensive care unit! Why are we, as a society, allowing colleges to become political spaces? The dress code controbversy is a perfect example of this tragedy,” observed Bhami Shenoy, who hails from Bantwal and works as an energy consultant in the US.

“Between the poor state of education and the dress code, which should be the burning issue? Why are TV channels interested in labelling SVS College guilty by quoting the Constitution as if only they have bleeding hearts?” he demanded.

It was at SVS College that Shenoy had experimented with a novel strategy called ‘True Education to ignite the minds of students to think creatively’. But he regrets that no media is interested in such strategies which could bring about badly needed reform in our education system.

“If this is a ‘burning’ issue, what about the critical matter of saving our educational system from complete collapse?” he asks.

Federation of University and College Teachers’ Associations in Karnataka (FUCxThere is need for accommodative spirit and some sort of tolerance. No cabinet meeting can solve this problem,” he adds.

Till common sense prevails, the fact that a ‘headscarf’ has become a national issue, that too in Mangalore, where students from over 50 countries are pursuing their studies, is a telling comment on the times we live in.

Should colleges campuses have a dress code?

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