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Communalism

‘Hijab Is Our Right,’ Muslim Girls Protest Over Rajasthan BJP MLA’s Remarks Against it

Hawa Mahal MLA and Hindu priest ‘Baba’ Balmukund Acharya said the environment of a school had been spoiled because some students wore the hijab.

Jaipur: A Rajasthan Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker’s remarks on hijab have led to protests by Muslim students of a government school in Jaipur, with the protesters condemning the MLA’s statements and asserting their rights to wear hijab.

The students of the Government Senior Secondary Girls School, Gangapol, held protests on Monday, January 29 outside the Subhash Chowk police station, over the remarks made by Hawa Mahal MLA and Hindu priest ‘Baba’ Balmukund Acharya or Sanjay Sharma.

A video of MLA Acharya, who had come as a guest at the government school’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26 has been widely circulated on social media.

In the video, Acharya can be seen asking teachers of the school, “Hijab ka kya chakkar laga rakha hai? Shaadi shuda hai kya ye bacchiyan?” Translated, it means, “What is this deal with hijab? Are the girls married?” Acharya can also be seen asking whether one can even breathe in hijab.

“Hijab ki wajah se mahaul kharab kar rakha hai (the environment has been spoiled because of hijab),” Acharya also said.

During his visit to the school, Acharya also chanted slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai, Saraswati Mata ki jai” and then asked some girls who were apparently not joining him as to whether “they have been told to not do so.”

He later chanted slogans of “Jai Shree Ram” at the school.

Acharya, a first time MLA has been in the news ever since he won from the Hawa Mahal constituency in December last year by a narrow margin.

Earlier, he had been seen inspecting meat shops and urging the administration to take action against what he called were “illegal slaughterhouses,” adding that “he won’t let Jaipur, which is also known as ‘Choti Kashi’, become Karachi.”

Also read: Rajasthan: FIR Against Hawa Mahal MLA Balmukund Acharya for Alleged Assault on SC Community Member

Muslims being targeted

“What does he have to do to what we wear? We are coming here to study and we will study. We will not stop our protest till the Baba doesn’t apologise. He always targets Muslims, sometimes over meat, shops run by Muslims, now over hijab. Today he wants to end hijab in school, tomorrow he may stop us from wearing hijab in school. Muslim students at the school are being targeted. Wearing hijab is our right,” one of the protesting students told reporters on Monday.

Acharya is facing allegations of assaulting and spitting on a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community in Peethawas village in Rajasthan.

Advocate Mohammad Aslam Khan, president of the Alpsankhak Vikash Sanstha said that most of the girl students in the school are from the Muslim community and alleged that MLA Acharya’s remarks were aimed at hindering their education.

‘Two types of dress codes’

Later on Monday, while speaking to reporters, Acharya once again questioned how there could be different dress codes in school.

“I had asked the school principal and other teachers if there were two types of dress codes here during Republic Day function or other government programmes? It was not a private programme. I was told (by teachers) that there is no such provision but they (students) don’t listen. Two years, three years, five, eight years, or students of the tenth standard, eighth standard were in hijab or burqa,” MLA Acharya told reporters.

“I had asked the (teacher) madam what their religious rules say. (Otherwise) Our kids can also wear lehenga-chunni to school tomorrow in different colours. There is an existing school dress code, uniform is given, and the students don’t even have objection, we just need to guide them about the school rules. Some people who want to do politics see politics everywhere,” the MLA added.

‘Must apologise’

Jaipur police commissioner Biju George Joseph told The Wire that the protesters had submitted a memorandum to the district collector over the issue and if the police receive any complaint they will be investigating it. No FIR has been lodged in the matter, said the commissioner.

Congress MLA from Adarsh Nagar Rafeek Khan reached the protest site on Monday and slammed Acharya for his remarks.

“I have listened to the protesting women. The type of environment Balmukund wants to create here is a direct attack to the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb of Jaipur. The Baba should immediately apologise. We will not stay quiet on this and he will have to apologise,” Khan told reporters.

Earlier, Hindutva groups had backed a government ban on hijab in Karnataka schools when the BJP was in power in the state.