The Indian chargé d'affaires in Islamabad was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday and was conveyed Pakistan’s grave concern and condemnation on the deeply reprehensible act of banning female Muslim students from wearing hijab (headscarf) in the Indian state of Karnataka.
The Indian media reported last week that several schools in Karnataka had denied entry to Muslim girls wearing the hijab citing an education ministry order, prompting protests from parents and students.
Hindu students mounted counter-protests, flocking to schools in recent days in support of the ban, forcing the Karnataka state government to shut schools and colleges for three days to ease tensions between the two communities.
In one incident in a video widely shared online, a lone Muslim student wearing the hijab is surrounded by Hindu male youths shouting religious slogans while trying to enter her school in Karnataka. The Indian diplomat was urged to convey to New Delhi, Islamabad’s “extreme concern” over the anti-hijab campaign, being spearheaded by RSS-BJP combine in Karnataka, which is part of its larger exclusionist and majoritarian agenda aimed at dehumanising and demonising Muslim women, a statement issued by the foreign office read.
The Indian diplomat was further conveyed Pakistan’s deep concern that religious intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatisation and discrimination against Muslims continue unabated even after almost two years of the horrific Delhi riots which claimed the lives of 50 innocent Muslims in February 2020.
“Government of Pakistan is also alarmed at the deafening silence of the BJP leadership and the absence of discernable action against Hindutva proponents openly calling for genocide of Muslims at the recently held Dharam Sansad in Haridwar, Uttarakhand,” it said. It was also emphasised that the Indian government must fulfil its responsibility to hold the perpetrators of harassment against women in Karnataka to account and take adequate measures to ensure safety, security and well-being of Muslim women. He was further urged to impress upon the Indian government to take immediate action against perpetrators and abettors of anti-Muslim violence in Indian states of Assam, Tripura, Gurugram and Uttarakhand and bring justice to the victims of Delhi riots.
Pakistan also called upon the international community, including the United Nations and OIC, especially their human rights machinery, to take cognisance of the worrying level of Islamophobia in India and prevail upon Indian authorities to prevent systematic human rights violations against minorities in the country. Dozens of protest demonstrations were held across India on Wednesday against a hijab ban in Karnataka, as a row over wearing the head covering in schools intensified.
The government of Karnataka, where 12% of the population is Muslim and which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has said in an order that students should follow dress codes set by schools. Opposition parties and critics accuse the BJP government at federal and state level of discriminating against the minority Muslim population. Modi has defended his record and says his economic and social policies benefit all Indians.