PFI fuelLed Hijab agitation as conspiracy: Karnataka to SC

The state governemnt says the agitation was not spontaneous, it was part of a bigger plan.

apex court dismisses TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya’s plea
apex court dismisses TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya’s plea

The Karnataka government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the student petitioners who challenged the Hijab ban in the state government institutions were influenced by the radical outfit Popular Front of India (PFI).
“In 2022, a movement started on social media by an organisation called Popular Front of India. The social media movement was designed to create agitation based on religious feelings of the people,” Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta told the bench.
The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of appeals challenging a Karnataka High Court verdict that effectively upheld the ban on wearing hijab in government schools and colleges.
SG Mehta representing the respondent in the matter, told the top court that a movement was started on social media by PFI. “There were continuous social media messages that start wearing Hijab and this was not a spontaneous act but a part of a larger conspiracy. Children were acting as advised.”
SG Mehta also referred to protests against Hijab in Iran and said that in Islamic countries, women are fighting against Hijab. He further added that mentioning Hijab in Quran will not make it essential, maybe, ideal but not essential.
Mehta apprised the court of the Karnataka Government’s order, which did not prohibit any particular community students from wearing apparel and the order said uniform has to be uniform. He also apprised the court that till the year 2021, no girl student was wearing any Hijab.
He also took the court through the chronology of events. SG Mehta submitted Karnataka Govt’s order recommending that all students will wear prescribed uniforms as the government had to intervene in the circumstances because the public order was being disturbed.
SG Mehta apprised the court about the agitation that took place. He said that students were protesting outside the gates, saying they want to wear Hijab while others were coming with saffron shawls.
He said that the circular is in religion neutral direction and this does not prevent one community, and uniforms must be implemented for students of all religions.
During the hearing, the court also asked various queries to SG. Among them Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia sought to know if had there been no uniform, there would have been no objection to scarf or Hijab.
Mehta replied that if no uniform has been prescribed by the management, the students shall wear that dress which goes with the idea of equality or unity, so no identification of any particular religion and hence no hijab or saffron shawls. He also took court from the aspects of essential religious practice and mentioned that one cannot think of a Sikh person without Kada etc. He said that essential practice must be shown to be co-existing with the religion itself.
During the hearing, Justice Dhulia remarked that Karnataka High Court should not have gone into the essential religious practice tests. The court remarked that they relied on a term paper of a student, and they have not gone to the original text.
The other side is giving another commentary. Who will decide which commentary is right, the court raised questions.
While concluding his arguments, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioner, quoted Rabindra Nath Tagore and submits Tagore said “we must awake in a country where fear does not exist”. Dave further added, “we cannot put fear in the minds of people”.