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Political understones aside, the anti-hijab perspective seeks a uniform dress code on the grounds of equality and “public order”. But week-long protests by college-going students for their rights have turned their education into a parallel accident. Something that could have been solved very well at the college level, but in the politically charged environment of coastal Karnataka it was blown out of proportion, “said Zakia Soman, a women’s rights activist. Should, he said.

Muslim girls still lag behind other social groups in education, but if they are forcibly expelled from state-run institutions for not removing the hijab, they may lose the great progress they have made in recent years. The attendance of Muslim girls in schools has increased significantly across India since 2015, including in Karnataka, according to the National Family Health Survey. There has also been an improvement in colleges: 10.3% of Muslim women aged 18-23 were enrolled for education in 2019-20, up from 7.4% in 2014-15, according to an analysis based on the All India Survey of Education (AISHE). The overall enrollment ratio for women of this age is 27.3%.

Campus diversity

The current episode is not the first to target marginalized groups on campus. Improving the representation of different communities is making the campus more diverse. In the last seven years, the proportion of Muslim students as well as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has increased significantly, albeit at different rates.

Khalid Khan, an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, said, “When the presence of a community in an institution increases, their social and cultural identity is also reflected on campus.” The growing presence of this new form, he said, is often seen as a threat by traditionally influential groups, leading to identity-based clashes on campus as well, with Rohit Vemular’s 2016 suicide being one of its ultimate consequences.

A 2019-20 survey by the Pew Research Center shows that Muslims in general have experienced more discrimination than other religious groups in recent years. Such incidents could inevitably spread on campus, as the Karnataka example shows.

The question of hijab

Criticizing the hijab, Hindu nationalist groups have called it a patriarchal practice. Two out of three Muslim women in India told the Pew survey that they wear a burqa, 12% a niqab, and 8% hijab বিভিন্ন all forms of face veils. However, it is very common for Sikh women to cover their heads outside the house, and to a lesser extent, for Hindu women as well.

True, there is ample evidence that the hijab is masculine, Somen said. But women can wear it for a variety of reasons, including personal preference, religious commitment and identity claims, and it also has a special role to play in getting Muslim girls closer to school, Khan said.

“Weak class of people wearing hijab to pursue higher education with their parents can convince them that their cultural identity will not be jeopardized by studying in an educational institution,” Khan said.

Cultural inequality on campus will marginalize not only Muslim women, but women in general, noted Reshmi Sengupta, an associate professor at Flame University in Pune, who served as a consultant to a government panel set up to review the implementation of a previous panel (Sachar). Committee) Recommendations on the situation of Muslims in India.

Dropout risk

When France banned the Muslim face veil in 2004, it led to an increase in school dropouts among girls in the community, a Stanford survey shows. In India too, such debates could have similar consequences. They put girls in a pair of patriarchal attire burdens and put them in discriminatory single-outs by political parties, Soman said.

Enrollment among Muslim girls at the higher education level has already declined sharply Up to secondary school, their representation is consistent with or even exceeds their share in the population. But it started reading less in secondary school, and in college, as of 2019-20 it was a whopping 5.6%.

Khan said if the dropout is due to hijab restrictions, it is “very likely that these girls will get married soon, and marriage is one of the main reasons for the drop-out of older girls”, Khan said. What could be a better tool than educating and empowering these women, Somen argues.

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