In recent memory, Muslim women have been prime targets from the time the brave Muslim women of Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi (and then other cities and towns) started to protest against the Citizenship Act (NPR/NRC/CAA). This protest soon spread across the country and the many Shaheen Bags became symbols of protest. This was not a simple task. The people who were always saying that ‘Muslim women are oppressed by their men and Islam’ were shocked to see Muslim women coming out in huge numbers, sitting on the roads for days and months together and protesting against Citizenship Act. The fascists also could not understand what was happening and then they started their cunning and terrorizing acts of threatening the Muslim women to stop their agitation. And finally, when the Muslim community did not move back an inch, the BJP leaders instigated their followers to carry out attacks on them. After that, fascists started trolling Muslim women who were vocal on social media. Even then, Muslim women did not move an inch. So, their brigade came up with something that would hit the Muslim community and this was the online sale of Muslim women on “Sulli Deals” application on Github, a hosting platform. Women from different fields who were vocal were selected and their photos along with their personal information such as phone numbers, email ids etc. were published for online auction. Muslim women protested against this and few complaints were filed, but Delhi Police did not take any action. This app was deleted. But this hatred and target of Muslim women did not stop here. After six months of this shameful act, another application “Bulli Bai” was created and even more Muslim women were targeted. Muslim women hit back with a strong legal response and many conspirators were arrested. As if this all was not enough to target Muslim women, a new issue of prohibiting ‘Hijab’ was created in Karnataka government schools. With this, protests started in favour of these hijab wearing girls and discussions started among all communities including feminists, Muslims, nonMuslims and the media and legal fraternities.
Role of Media and Judiciary: Electronic media, particularly the spineless media loyal to the ruling dispensation, was brutally passing off judgments against these girls. Discussions were held by these communal channels with weird captions such as Hijab ya Tezaab etc. Their aim was to divert common peoples’ minds from the real burning issues such as unemployment, the central government’s failure in handling the economy and the pandemic and so on, so that people would find themselves busy in such minor issues in the name of religion. Finally, this issue went to the court and the Karnataka High Court in its interim order said no religious symbol should be allowed in the schools where there is dress code. This led to misuse of the order by extremists and fascists. One by one, all the schools and colleges in Karnataka started punishing Muslim girls and Muslim teachers for wearing ‘Hijab’ and ‘Burqa’ by prohibiting them from entering schools and colleges. They were publicly humiliated by demanding them to strip off their hijab and burqa at the school/college entrances. A final verdict on this issue by the Karnataka High Court on 15th March 2022 says Hijab is not part of the essential religious practices of the Islamic faith and upheld the ban against the headscarf in educational institutions in the state. It also reiterated that College Development Committees have a right to prescribe a uniform and that Muslim girls must comply with whatever uniform is prescribed by their college. It has become easy for all these establishments who possess anti Muslim mindset to entrap minorities in endless debates and to force them to defend their basic existence at every step. During the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute, the same argument was brought forward that the mosque was not a part of essential religious practice in Islam. However, religious communities do not limit themselves only to ‘essential’ religious practices (the definition of which is also severely contested), but follow many other customary practices and inherited cultural aspects, all of which cannot be controlled by courts.
Understanding Hijab Now to those who do not know what ‘Hijab’ and ‘Burqa’ is: Hijab is nothing but a small piece of cloth covering the head and chest, and Burkha is a long, gown-type dress worn to cover the whole body. What is the big deal in opposing this piece of cloth called ‘Hijab’? In India, many women of all religious communities cover their head in one or the other way and call it with different names. The only purpose of this in all religions is ‘dress modestly’ and this dressing modestly may differ for each religion and community. Even the female ex-President and ex-Prime Minister of this country covered their heads with ‘saree pallu’ when they were in power. So what is the big deal? Why is this being pointed out only to Muslim girls and Women? Why is it a big issue? Why are the women of other communities not questioned for covering their head? Why is it seen from the religious angle? Why is it not considered as the right of women, what to wear and how to dress? The answer is simple! It is not the matter of whether you cover your head or your body but it is simply the targeting of the Muslim community. Muslim women were always presented as victims of patriarchy, victims of their religion Islam and so on. When all this was proven wrong through Muslim women coming out in large numbers against the Citizenship law, in protection of our Constitution, in protection of fundamental and constitutional rights; the anti-Muslim forces and the Hindutva fascists could not understand this reality and were unable to digest what they had propagated until now about Muslim women has been proved false. Thus defeated, they conspired to attack the psychology of the Muslim community by targeting the women. In the past decades, Muslims were targeted in different ways, labeled as terrorists, framed in false cases, put behind bars for years together without trial, their lives devastated and destroyed, all kinds of attacks were carried out including attacks on their houses and properties during riots, they were made economically weak by burning and destroying properties, and more recently, lynched in the name of cow or love jihad, and with the pandemic, became targets anew.
Politics of Hatred Even though Muslim community faced all the above, they believed in the democracy and judiciary, thinking one or the other day justice will be restored by the judiciary. However, the latest setback has been another blow to this hope. Nevertheless, it prevails as the case has now headed to the Supreme Court. But there were attempts to radicalize Hindu youth, and youngsters’ minds are brainwashed, communalized, filled with hatred against the minorities. This level of dehumanization being done in the name of polarization is turning a bright generation into one filled with hatred. The social fabric, already torn at the seams, is now almost entirely frayed. Who will take responsibility for this? This ideology is so dangerous that it is destroying the youth who are the future of this country.
Wake up call But there were attempts to radicalize Hindu youth, and youngsters’ minds are brainwashed, communalized, filled with hatred against the minorities. This level of dehumanization being done in the name of polarization is turning a bright generation into one filled with hatred. The social fabric, already torn at the seams, is now almost entirely frayed. Who will take responsibility for this? This ideology is so dangerous that it is destroying the youth who are the future of this country. It is high time the marginalized communities wake up and understand the politics of hate, organize themselves, build strategies to counter the hatemongers and act wisely instead of becoming puppets in their hands.