Staff Correspondent

NSUI, SFI withdraw from demonstration in last minute for ideological differences

‘Muslim girls are duty bound to wear hijab’

GIO leader says veil, headscarf, burkha are part of Indian culture

MANGALORE: The ban on wearing the burkha imposed by the SVS College in Bantwal has received mixed response from the student unions in the district. While the Islamic student unions staged a protest against the ban on Thursday, secular unions offered a guarded response saying that they were against the ban just as much as they were against the imposition of the controversial garment.

The Students’ Islamic Organisation (SIO), and its affiliate the Girls Islamic Organisation (GIO), staged a protest in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office here on Thursday. Their protest was supported by the district unit of the Jamat-e-Islami Hind. However, the leftwing Students’ Federation of India (SFI), and the Congress-affiliated National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), which were scheduled to participate in the protest, pulled out in the last minute quoting ideological differences with the protesting organisations.

Symbol of modesty

The activists of SIO and GIO claimed that the ‘purdah’ system was part of Islamic culture and Muslim girls were duty bound to wear the ‘hijab’ or the ‘burkha’. Rukhsana, president of the district unit of GIO said that the ‘burkha’ was a “symbol of a woman’s modesty” and not “a mark of oppression” as suggested by some people who “claim to be modern and progressive”.

Lamenting the “lack of modesty” in a few women, she said that they were to be blamed for the growing acts of sexual harassment of women. “By not wearing the ‘hijab’ women are attracting unnecessary attention of men,” she said and added that even President Pratibha Patil covered her head with a veil. Garments such as the veil, headscarf ,and burkha were “part of Indian culture,” she said. Muhammad Saqir from the SIO said that the burkha was not a religious symbol but an “exercise in personal freedom”. Sikhs, nuns and some Hindu women too wore clothes as per their religious beliefs, he said.

Nisar Ahmed from the SIO held Aysha Asmin, the girl who resisted the burkha ban, as a model for others to emulate.

The ban would deter the growing number of Muslim girls who were opting for higher education.

SFI’s version

Jeevan Raj Kuttar, president of the district unit of SFI, told The Hindu that his organisation could not support one group of fundamentalists to oppose another.

“We see no difference between Islamic fundamentalist organisations such as the Jamat-e-Islami Hind and the Hindutva organisations under whose pressure the ban on the burkha was imposed. We are for a person’s individual liberties. Nobody should force a person to wear or remove the burkha,” he said.

Although NSUI leaders did not wish to be quoted, they shared the sentiments expressed by the SFI leadership and said that they would find other ways to take the fight forward.