Today I got a first-hand experience of communal bigotry at Swami Bagh Higher Secondary School, Agra (UP) where I went to appear in the UP PGT examination, conducted by Uttar Pradesh Secondary Education Service Selection Board (UPSESSB). There I was asked to remove my hijab as a condition to get entry in the exam. When I refused to do so and asked to meet the authorities, I was conducted into an office where some officials were sitting. When I approached the one seeming to hold the highest office among them and to whom I was presented (I couldn’t get to know his name and designation), and told him about the matter, asking him to grant me permission to appear in the examination with my headscarf on, citing my constitutional right to do so (covering head being a religious obligation for me), he rudely denied that I have any such right and said: “You don’t have any rights here, you are living in India, not in Pakistan”, and asked me to choose between hijab and exam. I chose the hijab and said that I would go to court to carry on this fight for my right. He, again exhibiting his insolent behaviour, said: “Go to whatever court you like and do whatever you can.” There were others who prevented him from saying anything further when I got furious at his comments. I collected my belongings (purse, cell phone, etc.) which I had submitted there as nothing was allowed in the examination hall and prepared to leave, exam having started already. They then sent another official to me, who claimed to be the sector magistrate, who asked me to stay and said that they had decided that I could wrap my scarf back after having it thoroughly checked by a female staff member and give exam. Matter, thus, resolved.
The above ordeal has happened with Shakira Nomani today. One of the editorial board members at The Companion, she is a PhD scholar from Aligarh Muslim University. This is yet another incident of harassment and bullying with Hijab-wearing Muslim women. Such repeated cases of communally tainted remarks outraging the modesty of Muslim women at the hands of the (supposedly) keepers of constitutional rights do not seem to stop. In recent past several such cases of harassment faced by Muslim girls while appearing in UGC –CSIR NET/JRF exams or others have surfaced such Umaiyah Khan from Jamia Millia Islamia, and Hiera Fatima from Lucknow.
“Go to Pakistan” is the usual tirade thrown upon Muslims to constantly make them feel otherised, that they don’t belong to India.
With scores of mob lynchings happening across India, and everydayness of Muslim witch-hunting, the question does arise; do Muslims of India not have ‘rights’ in India?
In the past also, our team mate had faced Islamophobic slurs from the ‘men of power’. Read To Tarun Vijay From The Hijabi