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Army-run school triggers hijab controversy; amends diktat later

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Stop efforts to bring Karnataka into J&K: Omar; Our girls will not give up their right to choose: Mehbooba

Srinagar: An Army-run school for specially abled children in Baramulla district has stoked a controversy by asking its staff to avoid wearing hijab during school hours, prompting criticism from netizens and Jammu and Kashmir’s mainstream political parties.

In a circular dated April 25, the principal of the Dagger Parivar School Baramulla, a school set up under the aegis of the Army and the Indrani Balan Foundation for specially abled children, asked the teachers to avoid wearing hijab during school hours “so that students can feel comfortable and are forthcoming to interact with teachers and staff”.

However, on Wednesday, the school issued an amended version of the circular, replacing the word hijab (head cover) with ‘niqab’ (face veil).

The April 25-dated circular was widely shared on social media.

Commenting on the issue, NC vice president and former chief minister, Omar Abdullah said that it was wrong on the school’s part.

“Everyone has the freedom to follow his or her religion in this country. It is enshrined in our Constitution that we are a secular country, which means all religions are equal. I do not think any government should interfere in this.

“This is playing with such a danger that can pose problems for the country. We would like that such decisions should not be taken. People of all faiths should be free to follow their religion,” Abdullah said.

“We hope that the effort to bring Karnataka into Jammu and Kashmir will be stopped forthwith,” he added, referring to a recent controversy in the southern state over students wearing hijab in educational institutions.

Abdullah said the reason given by the Army-run school in Baramulla for the diktat was not right.

“The reason given is just not right. This school did not start yesterday. These teachers (who wear hijab) must have been interacting with the students earlier also. What changed overnight?” he asked.

“We are told not to use loudspeakers for ‘azaan’. Why? We do not tell you that you should not use loudspeakers at temples. You are telling us ‘halal’ meat should not be sold. Why? We are not forcing you to eat. Show me where has a Muslim forced a non-Muslim to eat halal.

“It is just that you have a problem with our way of life. Why?” he asked.

Abdullah said Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to a secular nation.

“This was not the India we had acceded to. We had acceded to a secular India where all religions were equal. We were not told that one religion will be treated as superior to others. Had we been told this, may be our decision would have been different,” he said.

Former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also strongly condemned the diktat.

“I condemn this letter issuing diktats on hijab. J&K may be ruled by BJP but it’s certainly not like any other state where they bulldoze the houses of minorities & not allow them the freedom to dress as they want. Our girls will not give up their right to choose,” Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.

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