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Schools closed in India as protests ban hijab intensify

New Delhi: Officials in southern India ordered the school to be closed yesterday as protests intensified over the ban on Islamic scarves that offended Muslim students. Standoffs in Karnataka have stimulated fear among the minority community about what they say is increasing persecution under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

In a fresh demonstration yesterday, police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd on one government-run campus, and a heavy police force was seen at a school in a nearby town. Prime Minister Basavaraj Bommai appealed for calm after announcing that all high schools in the state would be closed for three days.

“I urge all students, teachers, and school and university management to maintain peace and harmony,” he said. Government-run high school students were told not to wear hijab last month. This edict soon spread to other educational institutions in the state.

On campus, the conflict between Muslim students who blame the ban and Hindu students who say their classmates have disrupted their education is intensifying. “Suddenly they say you shouldn’t wear a hijab … why did they start now?” Said Ayesha, a teenage student at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in the coastal city of Udupi.

Ayesha said she kept her away from the chemistry test because she was wearing clothes. “We are not against any religion. We are not protesting against anyone. It is only for our own rights,” she told AFP. A fellow student, Amruth, standing in a crowd of Hindu boys wearing saffron shawls, said the controversy unfairly prevented him from attending classes.

“We … demanded that they not wear hijabs,” he said. “But today they are wearing hijabs. They do not allow us to enter.” The Supreme Court of Karnataka yesterday began hearing a petition to challenge the legality of the ban. However, it was postponed before the decision was issued.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party ruled Karnataka, with several prominent members throwing support behind the ban. Critics say the 2014 Modi elections see India as a Hindu nation and are trying to undermine its mundane foundation at the expense of a strong minority Islamic community of 200 million. He says he made the group bold. – AFP

https://www.kuwaittimes.com/schools-shut-in-india-as-hijab-ban-protests-intensify/ Schools closed in India as protests ban hijab intensify

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