Footballer Paul Pogba condemns mobs harassing Muslim girls wearing hijab in India

He is the second person to draw international attention to the hijab row

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 11 February 2022 13:44
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Karnataka student mobbed outside college for wearing hijab

Manchester United star Paul Pogba has raised concerns over the ongoing harassment of Muslim students wearing hijab in several schools in India's southern state of Karnataka.

The French footballer shared a video on Instagram, captioning it: "Hindutva mobs continue to harass Muslim girls wearing hijab to college in India".

The video showed a mob of young men wearing saffron scarves, a colour associated with the country's right-wing nationalists, surrounding a group of girls wearing headscarves.

The mob, which visibly outnumbered the girls, can be seen raising their fists in the air, waving their scarves and shouting slogans. Other students held hands to form a barrier around the girls to protect them from the mob.

A stand-off over the issue between authorities and students began late last year after students at the Pre-University College in Udupi, in the southwestern state of Karnataka, were barred from attending college if wearing hijab. The ban was extended to schools and colleges throughout the state.

Protests in Karnataka against the ban took place and these have now snowballed, making the issue a nationwide political controversy. Several Indian states, including the capital Delhi, have witnessed people take to the streets to protest against the ban on hijab in government-run schools.

In Karnataka, the BJP-run state government urged students not to wear clothing that “disturbs... public order”. A challenge against the ban has been launched in Karnataka’s High Court.

Videos from one of the colleges in Mandya, a city in Karnataka, showed a large group of boys wearing saffron scarves, heckling a burqa-clad student.

Muskan Khan had just arrived at her college to "submit an assignment" when the mob began shouting "Jai Shree Ram” (Hail Lord Ram). She retorted with "Allah hu Akbar" (God is greater).

Similarly, in another college in Udupi, a crowd of men in saffron scarves protested against their hijab-wearing peers.

As the crisis escalated, chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai this week declared the closure of all schools and colleges in Karnataka for three days.

According to a Newsminute report, Hindu Jagarana Vedike, a right-wing organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - the parent body of BJP - instigated students to protest against their hijab-wearing classmates and provided them with saffron scarves and turbans.

Meanwhile, the Indian Supreme Court on Friday refused to hear an urgent plea challenging the order preventing students from wearing "religious clothing" in educational institutions.

“Don’t spread these things to a national level. We will interfere only at an appropriate time,” chief justice NV Ramana said.

A three-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court has allowed the reopening of schools and colleges but urged all students from wearing "religious clothes".

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