MANGALORE: The Sri Venkatarama Swamy (SVS) College in Bantwal has restricted a first year BCom student from attending the class till she conforms to the regulations of the college, which is not to display her religious identity, the headscarf. (Times of India)
This is a very sad development indeed. After all, this is not France or Australia or Canada but secular India where the citizens have come to take in their stride the differences in the attire of those belonging to various religious communities.
Don’t students belonging to all communities display symbols of religious identity? What about the Bindi? Or the scapular or the rosary? Why single out the head scarf or the Burqa alone?
There was a time in India when Christians (in Kerala) went to school/college in mundu and chatta, Hindus in their set mundu and Muslims with their headscarf. For these students who came to acquire learning, these differences in the dress were no issue. They represented the plurality that was our pride. How much India has moved away from this situation!
The saddest aspect of this event is that the protests originated from the students, the clearest of indications that the citizens of tomorrow have their minds poisoned by communalism.
The first on the list of priorities of an educational institution in a pluralistic society like India’s is to inculcate secular values – like respect for other religions which includes tolerance and acceptance of religious markers. An institution that tries to throw a wedge between communities is unfit to be in the field of education, where religious tolerance, harmonious existence, respect for other religions and respect for differences should be held up as the highest values of civilization.
It is significant that this is happening in Karnataka, a state ruled by the BJP. Funny, how the party has not learnt its lessons after the drubbing it got at the hustings. The party can start packing up its bags in Karnataka after its shameful sexist and communal track record. The assault on women by lumpen elements of the communal outfits that mushroom and flourish under the BJP umbrella and the unofficial fatwa issued against people from the majority community who interact with the minority, are events which are still green in the minds of the electorate.
It becomes exceedingly difficult to understand this regressive movement in India which facilitated the rise of a communal party, all the way to New Delhi. The anti Muslim posture of the party – is it a political necessity or a genuinely ideological position? Or is it a type of fascism that infects the narrow mind which draws its identity from a narrow cultural and religious context? Or a combination of all these? Academia is replete with attempts to locate the issue in the historical site but speculations have given rise to theories and theories without credible answers.
Is it a reaction to globalization inherent in which is the possibility of eventual loss of identities of religious groups? Like the last convulsions of a dying animal? Can the religious activism across the world- of all religions- be explained in these terms?
Can’t help thinking about John Lenon’s Imagine.
Back to the issue. the brainstorming of the BJP which just concluded in Simla is causing anxious tremors among the peace loving citizens of this country. Fascist voices are drowning those of the moderates in the party. Political strategies are being spelt out to regain power from where the party can position itself to launch assault on differences.
Below is given the rest of the news item from TOI.
The student Aysha Asmin, after objections from saffron-leaning students, was told by the college management not to wear the headscarf, which she started wearing after the college had prevented her from wearing the burqa.
Aysha has not been attending the classes from past 12 days. Trouble started after the college elections. She alleged that college president Bharath started heckling her for wearing a scarf saying that they too would come wearing a saffron scarf.
"He was taken aback when I said I don't mind. I don't even mind wearing a saffron scarf", Aysha told TOI. After this, harassment continued, but Aysha was stoic till it reached a flash point when the principal told her not to attend classes.
Aysha's father clarifies that he admitted his daughter to the college only after clarifying that there would be no issue for wearing a burqa in the college with a lecturer.