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Feature: Hijab Row: Muskan’s daring act strikes a chord with people across the globe

The sight of a lone girl in hijab fighting back an army of Hindutva hardliners trying to closing in on her reminiscent of a pack of bloodthirsty wolves ambushing its prey struck an instant chord with people across the globe, thanks to the video footage of the incident that went viral on social media.

The confidence the young girl displayed while taking on the saffron activists, constantly heckling and jeering at her, was the real toast of the tale.

Soon after parking her scooter, as Muskan headed to her college building, a Hindutva mob brandishing saffron scarves advanced towards her menacingly in a bid to besiege her. Undeterred by their constant heckling and jeering, she walked briskly towards her college building shouting “Allah o Akbar… Allah o Akbar…” at the top of her voice to counter her tormentors’ “Jai Shri Ram” chants.

Later, speaking to NDTV, she recounted, “When I entered class, I removed the burqa … (the) principal has said nothing, outsiders started this.” She said she always worn the burqa and hijab ever since she joined the college.

The reactions to the incident poured in from across the globe were of two types. One set of reactions cheered and expressed solidarity with the braveheart for her daring act at the time of adversity. The other expressed concern over the attempt at communal polarisation of students on a trivial issue and victimisation of girls.

Bollywood celebrities, media personalities, intellectuals and politicians reacted with deep concern over the harassment of Muskan. They held the incumbent Modi government squarely responsible for the degeration in the country. All condemned the incident as ‘shameful’.

Rajdeep Sardesai, a prominent media personality, recounted the incident and drew a conclusion thus: “A new video from Karnataka shows a young student in a hijab being chased by ‘Jai Shree Ram’ (Hail Lord Ram) slogan-shouting men. This is what bigotry does to a nation: divides us on dress, food and religion. When we should be worried about jobs for young, we focus on their dress! Shameful.”

Reflecting on the incident, Pooja Bhatt, a prominent filmmaker, said, “As always, it takes a pack of men to attempt to intimidate a woman. Such frightened, pathetic excuses for human beings. Brandishing their shawls as weapons, cloaking their weakness in cruelty. A sizeable section of a rudderless generation lost to hate.”

It has been a month since the students of a government-run school in Karnataka’s Udupi district started their campaign after they were barred from entering their classrooms while wearing hijab. The scene of a group of students in hijab protesting outside the school gate, reading their lessons had a ripple effect across the state.

Instead of making an attempt to resolve the issue amicably, school after school enforced a ban on the hijab, ostensibly under pressure from rightwing Hindutva forces active in the region ever since BJP came to power in the state. What’s all the more reprehensible is that they started shouting pro-Hindutva slogans to worsen the situation.

The state machinery too was pliant with the Hindutva group. Some ruling party members issued statements in defence of the ban on the hijab encouraging RSS members to exacerbate the situation.

As the situation went out of control with students from two different religious groups on a collision course, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai hastened to announce closure of all schools and colleges in the state for three days as the controversy over students wearing hijab on campus intensified, with violence reported from several districts.

Meanwhile, Pakistan saw in the Muskan’s incident a planned ‘ghettoisation of Muslims’ by the Modi government. Interior Minister of the country, Sheikh Rashid, said: “One Muslim girl has exposed India’s politics and the treatment [being given] to Muslims.” He was addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, lauded Muskan’s “courage and her conviction” in face of the “fascist Hindutva brigade”. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called depriving of Muslim girls of education a “grave violation” of fundamental human rights.

“World must realise this is part of Indian state plan of ghettoisation of Muslims,” he tweeted.

“Indian society is declining with super speed under unstable leadership,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

Nobel laureate and activist Malala Yousafzai said, “Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying.” She asked Indian authorities to stop the marginalisation of Muslim women. — Clarion India

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