Hijab Hurdle: Professor’s Resignation Roils Kolkata College

Sanjeeda Quader, a law professor, in Kolkata

Snobar, TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: The resignation of Sanjeeda Quader, an assistant law professor at LJD Law College, a private institution in Kolkata, has ignited a fierce debate. Quader alleged that she was compelled to resign due to the college’s restriction against her wearing a hijab while teaching.

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She began wearing the headscarf on April 1, coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan, a sacred month of fasting for Muslims. Initially, her choice to wear the hijab did not raise any objections from fellow faculty members throughout April and May.

However, the situation took a sudden turn on May 30 when she received an evening call from a college representative, informing her of the new directive prohibiting the hijab during teaching sessions. While she could still wear it elsewhere on campus, as alleged, it was strictly prohibited inside the classrooms.

Talking to TwoCircles.net, she talked about the alleged pressure she encountered to resign from her position due to this ban on wearing the hijab while teaching her students.

Sanjeeda Quader with her colleagues of LJD law college

The day following the announcement of the new dress code policy, which banned hijab during classes, she said she sought clarification from the college secretary and chairperson, Gopal Das, regarding this sudden change.

They allegedly asserted that my hijab is in violation of the dress code policy. Despite Quader’s efforts to explain its significance and highlight how the ban encroached upon her fundamental rights, they allegedly remained adamant that she would not be allowed to teach while wearing the hijab under any circumstances.

“On May 31, a notice outlining the new dress code policy was circulated among faculty members, specifying attire guidelines for male and female staff. However, it did not have any mention of the hijab. Two days later, a fellow faculty member contacted me to inquire about my stance on the policy, repeatedly emphasizing that teaching would not be permitted unless I complied. Feeling coerced, I submitted my resignation on June 5,” she said.

Quader further revealed that following her resignation, she learned that one of her students faced similar pressure to remove her hijab in the classroom. “I realized that while I could potentially find employment elsewhere with policies permitting hijab, students wearing headscarf or veil would continue to face daily harassment or feel compelled to leave the college, significantly impacting their lives. This realization solidified my decision to take a stand against this issue,” she affirmed.

Reflecting on her ordeal, she expressed deep dismay at the alleged humiliation she endured and the purported mindset that led to her resignation from her position.

In response to the widespread coverage of her resignation over the hijab issue, the college claimed that the controversy stemmed from a “miscommunication” and announced the reinstatement of the professor.

However, Quader disputed the assertion, stating, “There was no miscommunication on their part. They explicitly instructed me to remove my hijab if I wished to continue teaching, or else I would not be allowed to teach at all.”

Despite the college’s offer of reinstatement, she stated that she would not return, mentioning her intention to send an email today to decline the offer.

She remarked, “As a law professor, I am deeply disheartened to witness such violations and breaches of rights guaranteed under the Constitution. In an educational institution where we strive to impart knowledge about the Constitution and legal principles, I have encountered a blatant violation of constitutional rights.”

She continued, “This issue extends beyond the infringement of fundamental rights; it also encroaches upon the modesty of women. Women should possess the autonomy to decide which parts of their bodies they choose to reveal and which they do not. This incident not only restricts fundamental rights but also constitutes an affront to women’s modesty.”

Discussing societal attitudes towards Muslim women who wear hijab, she highlighted the alarming rise in hate campaigns against Muslims in recent years. She elaborated on how this surge has contributed to the prevalence of issues such as mob lynching and discrimination against hijab-wearing individuals in society.

She concluded with a resounding message to anyone who has experienced alleged harassment or discrimination based on personal choice, religion or language anywhere in the world. Emphasizing the paramount importance of standing up for one’s rights, she declared, “No one has the authority to trample upon the rights enshrined in the Constitution.”

Urging individuals to educate themselves about their rights and to assertively defend them, she underscored the power of informed advocacy in upholding justice and equality.