Towards unfreedom

Court order on the hijab in the examination hall risks overruling a fundamental freedom.

By: Express News Service | Published: July 29, 2015 12:00 am
aipmt, cbse, aipmt dress code, supreme court aipmt sc order, aipmt hijab, aipmt rules, aipmt supreme court , sc order aipmt, cbse medical exam, aipmt news, cbse news, india news, indian express Muslim girl was allegedly prohibited from attending classes in a Lucknow school while wearing a scarf to cover her head.

Who is afraid of a headscarf? Most recently, that fear has struck the invigilators of the All India Pre-Medical Test, who believe that women in hijab and nuns in their habits pose a security risk in examination halls. That logic now has the sanction of the Supreme Court, which last week dismissed a plea that challenged the CBSE’s directions barring students from wearing certain garments and accessories to discourage cheating in tests. Even if faith impels a few candidates to cover their heads or their arms, relaxing their beliefs “for one day” harms no one, the court held. With due respect, the honourable court is wrong.

It harms, first of all, the large number of women affected by the order. The choice of wearing the hijab or the dupatta is often a complicated transaction between the individual and the community. In some cases, it is worn out of belief in a religion or respect for the culture one has grown up in. In others, it is the concession women in conservative societies need to make, when they step out into the world to study or work. By marking out examination halls as spaces where such negotiations do not hold, by asking a Muslim woman to choose between the hijab and her chance at education, the court is coming down on the side of unfreedom. One also wonders if that restriction applies equally to Sikh men, for instance, who wear turbans because their religion asks them to — or is it that only the bodies of Muslim and Christian women are to be subject to such policing?

The court order, at its heart, encroaches on the right to practise one’s customs and beliefs. Unlike countries such as France, where the suspicion of the hijab and the turban borders on racism, India revels in the plural nature of social identity. To make some forms of attire less acceptable than others is to damage that sense of equality. It might be argued that the CBSE’s orders were motivated by a reasonable need to seal examination halls against unfair practices. But it ignores the fact that the students agreed to be frisked if the board was willing to bend its rules — or that it failed to come up with other ways of cheatproofing its mechanisms. The demands of “pragmatism” cannot overrule the fundamental freedoms the Constitution guarantees all Indians. And that includes the freedom to wear any kind of headgear.

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    Amar Prasad
    Jul 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm
    This is seer garbage in the name of secularism and right to freedom or whatever. I disagree with such interpretation of the SC ruling, where the writer is trying to put SC in dock. Yes I agree with his choice of disagreeing with SC views on the matter but to put it simply and trying to browbeat by exampling with sikhs' right to wear a turban with wearing of hijab and cross by some other believers is a nonsense; because our consution gives us right to dissent does not mean, we shall continue to measure everything in the scale of so called secularism and right to freedom etc. Why no one cares to talk about the duties of a citizen? Even our great religions make such suggestions to be patriotic, to care for other human being and above all believe in giving; instead hawks across bandwidth are ever ready to always take, take advantage of the issues to shine their own views and dukandaari. Such issues where equality and uniformity is asked for by any regulating authority; everyone should be in the one rank and file and and out rankers should not only close their eyes and cooperate in the functioning of the process but shut their mouth for the larger well being.
    1. kush soni
      Jul 30, 2015 at 5:18 pm
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        Mohan B
        Jul 29, 2015 at 9:35 am
        There are two sides to this argument. One that is put up in this editorial. The other side is that the decision of the court to not allow wearing scarves and other head gear can be justified on the grounds of security as well as avoiding cheating. Besides the court has said 'it will do no harm in relaxing your religious beliefs and faith only for one day'. This statement is absolutely true. There is a uniform dress code which every student must follow regardless of his/her faith. As far as the sikhs are concerned, well the chances of a sikh cheating by using a turban head gear are very less next to zero. Hence the argument made in this editorial regarding this is flawed. The court's ruling is very much justified when it comes to preventing and minimizing cheating cases. This should be given priority over religious beliefs.
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          nirode mohanty
          Jul 29, 2015 at 8:54 pm
          The hijab and burkha use by Muslim girls and ladies in the Middle East and stan has been demanded by Muslim fundamentalists, a practice from the seventh century. It is written extensively by Karima Bennoune in her book, Your Fatwa does not apply here( W.W. Norton, 2013). India should ban the use to release Muslim women from the slavery and ban the radical mosques and seminaries which are promoting the use.
          1. Nitindra Bandyopadhyay
            Jul 29, 2015 at 11:39 am
            The editorial has read too much in between the lines of the court's order. The article might seem to justify the fears, with the right wing government in the backdrop. However, the need of the hour is to redefine so called secular discourse independent of its majority bashing idealogue.
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