Hearing on Hijab row: Ban part of pattern to marginalise minorities, SC told

Muslim appellants who have challenged the Karnataka hijab ban told the Supreme Court on Monday that the “directive” against wearing the apparel in schools is “part of…pattern…to marginalise minority communities”.

“This is not about uniform…by series of acts of commission and acts of omission that have happened, unfortunately…I’m not blaming any individual or anything, but these acts of commission and omission show that there is a pattern to marginalise the minority communities. Part of this pattern is this directive,” senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing some of the appellants, told a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia.

Dave referred to controversies such as “love jihad” and said, “this has to be considered in the light of the kind of atmosphere that we are seeing today, which is going far from being liberal that we have been for 5,000 years”.

He said the Karnataka government circular says that “we are trying to bring unity in the country”, and asked “you want unity, then how is that you are prohibiting a Hindu girl from marrying a Muslim boy? They have fallen in love…”

Dave added, “You have to today ask permission from a District Magistrate. He takes his own sweet time, calling families to find out, everybody puts pressure on family, don’t marry, all kinds of fringe elements will come into play”.

He asked, “Is this the democracy our forefathers fought for?”

Dave said what was done is “malice in law”. “You are passing this resolution ostensibly saying uniform. Actually it’s for some other purpose. The whole idea is that how do I tell the minority community that you are not allowed to profess your beliefs, your are not allowed to follow your conscience. You will do what I tell you to do.”

Dave said that “just like turban for Sikhs, hijab is important for Muslim women. Nothing wrong with that. It is their faith. Somebody wants to wear tilak, somebody wants to wear a cross, everybody has the right. That is the beauty of social life.”

He asked if wearing of hijab threatens the unity and integrity of India.

Justice Dhulia responded, “Nobody is saying that. Even the (High Court) judgment does not (say that).”

Dave said that the Bar Council of India prescribes a dress code for lawyers and asked if the court will stop a lawyer if he comes wearing a cap.

Justice Gupta pointed out that it was a tradition to cover the head whenever one goes to respectful places.

Dave replied that the classroom is a respectful place. “Look at our Prime Minister. How beautifully he wears turbans on important days…. It is a way to respect the people,” he said.

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Quoting from speeches of Sardar Vallabhai Patel as chairman of the Minorities Committee, he said “nothing is better than to minority to place a sense of confidence in majority, and also on the majority to think who we will feel if we are treated like them.”

The arguments remained inconclusive and will continue Tuesday.

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