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PUCL, which earlier called for PFI to be ‘un-banned’, says Muslim students face discrimination when asked to wear school uniform instead of hijab

Titled "Closing the Gates of Education: Violations of Rights of Muslim Women Students", the report talked about the "harassment" of Muslim students by the college administration.

The Karnataka chapter of the controversial organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has claimed in a report that Muslim students continue to ‘face discrimination’ by being asked to wear school uniform instead of hijab. As per the report, the team of PUCL-K visited five districts of the state, Raichur, Udupi, Hassan, Shivamogga and Dakshina Kannada, where they interviewed faculty, students and district authorities. Following their visits, they came to the conclusion that Muslim girls and women are “facing harassment” even a year after the hijab controversy.

Titled “Closing the Gates of Education: Violations of Rights of Muslim Women Students”, the report talked about the “harassment” of Muslim students by the college administration. The report claimed that the students were compelled to shift from government institutes to minority institutes.

The report read, “Students from marginalised communities, religious minorities, and Adivasis have repeatedly shared their experiences of discrimination in classrooms and how it adversely affects their self-confidence and inhibits their aspirations for higher studies and sense of freedom. A divided and discriminatory educational space directly galvanises the establishment of a further divided society.”

The report quoted a student, “I left my college and searched for other colleges that allowed girls to wear hijab. There was free education in government colleges, but the travel expense to my new college was high. I wanted to pursue MSc, which is not possible now. It feels that my dreams are now shattered.”

The report further claimed the students were forced to seek support from their own community because of the “sudden change in behaviour of fellow students and neighbours”. It quoted a student as saying, “In rural Udupi, a student said that since there was a sudden change in the attitude of their neighbours and friends, many Muslim women sought support from within their community.”

Quoting more students, the report claimed that Muslim students even received death threats. It claimed that the presence of police on the campuses and confrontation by the male students made them uncomfortable. It also claimed that the male students threatened to kill female Muslim students.

Quoting students from Udupi, the report stated, “Police officials were posted inside the college campus throughout the period from the interim order to the final verdict. Hindu boys were posting threatening messages on WhatsApp groups. They said that they wanted to punish us and kill us. We were scared and isolated throughout, with no one to assure our safety.” The report did not include any screenshots of the threat messages on WhatsApp groups to back the claims.

Notably, the police were stationed outside the educational institutes to maintain law and order. The students who came in hijab were asked to wear school uniforms which were interpreted as “atrocities” in the report. Quoting students, the report read, “Police officials were stationed outside the college to stop us from entering the college with the hijab. Along with the media, they were also taking videos of all of us. It was rather scary to see police forces outside the college. We felt like criminals.”

Arvind Narrain, president of PUCL-K, said, “What the government of Karnataka has done is not uphold the right to education, but deny it. Many girl students did not appear for their final examinations and transferred to other institutions, prompting segregation of students based on religion.”

Blaming the government of “atrocities” for merely asking the students to follow the dress code, Poorna Ravishankar, a member of the PUCL team, said, “This is an unprecedented situation where the state machinery is actively trying to throw students out of classes and out of education.”

PUCL asked for lifting the ban on PFI

In September 2022, PUCL asked to lift the ban on the Popular front of India (PFI). Notably, the ban was imposed on PFI for five years by the Union Home Ministry for its involvement in anti-India activities. A statement said that a dialogue with the PFI should be started. The organisation demanded that the authorities refrain from using their arrest powers arbitrarily to target Muslim youths based on their involvement or support of the PFI and its affiliates.

It urged that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the NIA Act be repealed but that, in the meantime, the NIA Act be altered to guarantee that the State government concerned was contacted, and approval was obtained before the NIA conducted a search or arrest a resident of that State.

Furthermore, PUCL also condemned actions against dubious journalist Rana Ayyub who was accused of misusing money collected through donations during Covid, and former Amnesty India employee Aakar Patel and even the raids on The Wire’s office in November last year.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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