By K K Ahmed / TwoCircles.net
NG Acharya & DK Maratha College in Mumbai’s Chembur area has been in the news from the last few days ever since the management has banned the hijab in the college premises and forced the girls to stand outside the College gate for several hours telling them ‘you are not allowed to enter the college premises unless you take off the hijab’.
The watchman stopped the students at the gate and told them that it is the order of the principal that ‘no one should enter Junior college with a hijab or scarf’.
Implementing the rule in mid-academic year
Twocricles.net spoke to some of the girl students, who informed that there was no dress code all these years, but this academic year, a dress code has been introduced for junior college alone which says that even a dupatta is not allowed. “Before implementing this rule, a meeting was held with the parents wherein it was decided a dress code for both boys and girls will be in place but there was no word about disallowing the hijab/scarf and dupatta” said one student from class XI, who wished to remain anonymous. “However, the girl students at degree college can wear burkha, dupatta, scarf inside the classroom. This rule is only for the junior college students”, she added.
Another student of class XII, Mansura (named changed) studying Arts said “There are many Muslim areas around the college from where students come to study here. Before this ban, students have been reprimanded many times by the principal for wearing scarves. It should be noted that as of now the dress code has been introduced only for junior college students and the ban has been imposed in the middle of the academic year”.
“A girl who was found wearing a dupatta on campus was asked to leave the college premises by the watchman” added Mansura.
The watchman Jadhav who has been working in NG Acharya & DK Maratha College from the last few years, says that he is acting on the orders of the college Principal Dr Vidyagauri Lele. He said it is his duty to ensure that the student has to remove her hijab/ head scarf at the gate and then enter the college. In the beginning even the watchman shared the same sentiments as that of the principal and expressed that this rule will ensure that all are dressed in the same manner without partiality to anyone. However, when more media persons approached him, he retracted from his earlier statement.
After hearing this news, social activists, political leaders from the surrounding areas pressurized the college management to show the order/ Government Rule copy mentioning this rule about the head scarf and dupatta. But the College administration failed to furnish that.
College Principal responds
In reaction to the pressure and protests of students and Human rights and other activists, Dr Vidya Gauri Lele, Principal of the college released a video wherein she explained “We will allow the students to come to college with a hijab and remove their hijab in the washroom before entering the classroom for this academic year only. But they will not be allowed to wear hijab anywhere in the College premises whether it is in the classroom, canteen, library, laboratory or anywhere else in the premises. We have introduced a dress code which has to be strictly followed”. She also said that if anyone has a problem with the new dress code can enrol elsewhere.
The new dress code is a cream-coloured kurta with a blue salwar and a small vest for girls. And for the boys the uniform is cream coloured shirt paired with blue trousers.
However, the Muslim girls lament that the dress code consists of salwar kurta and a small vest with no dupatta. “We wear dupatta even in our houses, how can we be without the dupatta in a classroom where there are boys and our lecturers are males?”
“And removing our burkha/ scarf outside on the road in a public place is such a humiliating experience”, said Sameera (name changed). “If it was an all-girls college, we could still remove the burkha in the college premises but since this is a co-education institute, we feel awkward”.
This new rule could also affect some of them adversely because many parents are strict about the hijab as it is part of the religious practise, she further said worried.
The principal has asked for 10 days for any further explanation and clarification after which will issue a fresh statement.
Support for the girls
The protesting girls are not alone and have found support from Advocate Nikhil Kamble who tweeted in support of the girls tagging the Cm and
Other women activists supporting the girls are from Pragati Mahila Protisan and Mahila Mandal Federation.
“If the college management wanted the girls to take off their dupattas, burkha, headscarves they should have arranged a room for them to do so. Asking them to remove it on the road at the gate of the college is improper. By introducing such policies the college management is hindering the education of the girls. We will raise our voice in support of these girls and take to the roads” said Manisha Mane, from the Mahila Mandal Federation.
“Many of our non-Muslim friends are also supporting us,” said Sameera. “Even they are not in favour of the new dress code”.
The police intervened to ease the tensions amidst the protesting students. Though temporarily the girls have been allowed to wear the hijab, the explanation and the management decision is awaited by both the parents and the students.
“We only hope it will not be a situation similar to Karnataka. The Muslims girls there had to opt out of colleges. It would be sad if the same thing happened here” said one of the ex-students Waliullah Khan.