Even as the hearing in the Karnataka hijab ban case continues in the Supreme Court, Janata Dal (Secular)’s Karnataka chief CM Ibrahim today compared the Islamic headscarves to the pallu — a piece of loose saree covering the head and shoulders.
“President Droupadi Murmu also covers her head with a pallu, is that a PFI conspiracy?” he said, responding to allegations that Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) was behind the huge protests against the hijab ban in the state.
“Indira Gandhi covered her head with a pallu. President covers her head with a pallu, so those who cover their faces with ghoonghat are they all backed by PFI? Covering the head with a pallu is a history of India. It’s a sansakar (virtue) of India,” he added.
The Karnataka government today told the court that PFI was behind the Hijab protests. No hijab was being worn in schools till 2021, it claimed.
A Karnataka government order of February 5, 2022, had banned wearing “clothes that disturb equality, integrity, and public order” in schools and colleges.
Mr Ibrahim pointed to traditional attire in Rajasthan, saying women there cover their heads and faces with a pallu. “No Rajput woman in Rajasthan bares her face, they have a long ghoonghat. Can you ban it, saying it’s a Muslim practice?” the JD(S) leader said, adding that the difference between a hijab and a pallu is just a difference of language, but the function remains the same.
In the Supreme Court, the petitioners, who have challenged the hijab ban, have argued that the hijab is the “identity” of Muslims. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave told the court on Monday that various acts of omission and commission of the Karnataka state authorities showed a “pattern to marginalise the minority community”.
Mr Dave said religious practice is what the community practises as part of its religious belief.
The bench observed that traditionally, whenever a person used to go to a respected place, he or she would cover their heads.
“In my respectful submission, school is the most respected place. It is a place of worship,” Mr Dave responded, adding even the Prime Minister wears a headgear on August 15.
The row over hijab in educational institutions began in January when Government PU College in Udupi barred six female students wearing the hijab from entering the campus. It cited a uniform code. The young women held a sit-in at the college gate.