One year of Karnataka’s war on Muslim women’s right to learn

Dear reader,

Last year this time, among the biggest national news stories was the raging controversy in Karnataka surrounding the right of women Muslim students to wear hijabs to college. 

It began in December 2021, when a college in Udupi barred women from wearing the headscarf to campus. Through January, it spread to other places in the state as protests by Muslim students were met with counter-protests by students affiliated to Hindutva organisations. By February, the government ordered all colleges to enforce uniform rules and make no exceptions for hijabs. Muslim students and organisations filed petitions in the Karnataka High Court, challenging the order.

While this was happening, Ayesha Sayed had just started classes at a law college in Udupi. A BA graduate and a mother of a three-year-old child, she had managed to persuade her in-laws to allow her to study further, and convinced a neighbour to babysit her child. She was deeply invested in her education, and had even worked in a call centre to fund her graduate studies.

Initially, she was not affected by the hijab controversy – her college did not enforce uniform rules.

But this changed in March, when the court held that colleges had the right to bar women from wearing the headscarf. Sayed’s college told her she would be allowed in class only if she removed the hijab. Sayed had to drop out. 

Now back at home, Sayed is angry. “I am not meant to be stuck inside these four walls,” she told Johanna Deeksha, when they met in December. Cradling her four-year-old son in her arms, Sayed said: “There must have been a reason why my mother gave birth to me, right? It couldn’t have been to just slog it out in the kitchen and scrub the bathrooms.”

Sayed is just one of the many young Muslim women students that Deeksha interviewed for our latest Common Ground story, which documents the devastating blow that the hijab ban has struck to the education of women of a community that has among the lowest levels of enrollment in higher education. 

You can read the story here.

You can find our previous Common Ground stories here. And to support more such in-depth and investigative reporting, you can make a contribution to the Scroll Ground Reporting Fund.

Ajay Krishnan
Senior Editor

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