Controversy in Bihar after student allegedly asked to remove Hijab during exam

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The incident happened at Mahant Darshan Das Mahila (MDDM) College in Muzaffarpur, Bihar on October 16.

Sami Ahmad | 

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PATNA (BIHAR) — A controversy over hijab erupted in Bihar on Sunday as Adiba, a class 12 student of Mahant Darshan Das Mahila (MDDM) College, Muzaffarpur was asked by a male invigilator Ravi Bhushan to uncover her ear to see if there was any Bluetooth device. Allegedly, she was not allowed to put the hijab back on her head. 

Muzaffarpur is situated 72 kilometres north of Bihar’s capital Patna. The incident has left many people questioning as Muzaffarpur is known for his communal harmony. 

According to reports and videos circulating online, the girl student followed the instruction and showed her ear to the invigilator. As the invigilator did not find any device in the ear, she tried to put the hijab back but she was asked not to do so. The teacher allegedly told her, “There was no competition going on here. You just cannot put on your hijab.’’ He also told, ‘’Khati kahin ka, aur gaati kahin aur ka (You get your food here but show allegiance to another country).

Adiba, a resident of Chandwara Mohalla was writing her paper in English for the sent-up examination of Intermediate conducted by the Bihar School Examination Board. This is equivalent to the Pre-Board examination for class 12. 

Dr Kanupriya, principal of the said college, refused to answer questions from over the phone and asked this correspondent to reach her office. “There was no issue at all,” she said and disconnected the phone call. 

In a video statement, Dr Kanupriya said that all the girls were asked to surrender their mobile phones, according to the rule. “Around 15-20 girls gave back their phones. One student whose ears were covered was asked by the teacher to show her ears but she refused to do so. The teacher told her that she cannot write her examination in this way. The said girl got angry, walked out, and called anti-social elements naming a religion.” 

The principal claimed that there is complete security in her college and ‘if the girl had any problem, she should come to the examination controller. She could have contacted me also but she made a call to the police station.”

Adiba’s classmate, whose name could not be known, and who was also appearing for the same examination wearing hijab, said that the said teacher called them “anti-national and Pakistani.” 

Adiba said the said teacher asked her to throw her hijab off. She and her classmate suggested calling a lady constable to frisk them. “Our papers were also snatched and we were asked to leave. If the teachers will behave like this in the name of religion, what will happen to the students?”

Suraj Singh, district president of Insaf Manch, along with other members of his organization were involved in pacifying the situation. Talking to, Singh said, “Adiba showed her ears to the teacher but when she tried to put her hijab back, the teacher did not allow her.” 

“The teacher said that since all the students here are girls, so, wear your hijab when you go outside the examination room,” Singh said, and added, “At this point, the girl refused to remain without hijab and walked out of the class. While the girl was going out of the class, the teacher made some comments that we could not ascertain but the girl alleged that she was asked to go to Pakistan.”

A Times of India report quoted the college principal as saying, “The examinee in question was not prevented from wearing hijab by any teacher. She was asked only to show her ear since there were apprehensions that she might be carrying a Bluetooth device for cheating in the examination.” 

According to a Hindi daily, the college principal also alleged that Adiba was short of the mandatory 75 per cent attendance. “So she was creating a ruckus,” the report said.  

Responding to this allegation, Insaf Manch’s Singh said, “As far as the question of the attendance is concerned, that is impractical. If the criterion of 75 per cent of attendance is taken into consideration, then more than half of the students will miss their examination. In which government school or college students go to attend classes regularly.”

Although the administration is trying to settle the issue amicably, there are attempts by right-wing forces to communalize this matter. A little-known group known as Giriraj Singh Fans Club has to register a case and enquire about the funding of these students who were protesting against the alleged forced removal of their hijab.

Sami Ahmad is a journalist based in Patna, Bihar. He tweets at @samipkb