Basic Rights’ Violations in India’s Karnataka – Gauging Regional and International Response

Human Rights Watch recently condemned the state of affairs in India’s Karnataka region. Moreover, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also “expressed deep concern over recent public calls for genocide of the Muslims by the Hindutva’ proponents in Haridwar in the State of Uttarakhand and reported incidents of harassment of the Muslim women on social media sites as well as banning of Muslim girl students from wearing hijab in the State of Karnataka, India. The issue came to the forefront when teenage female students protested not being allowed to enter their schools for wearing hijab. The protest gained traction when Muskan Khan’s video reached the world through social media. The video clearly shows young schoolboys holding saffron scarves and chanting slogans; both associated with right-wing nationalism in India. It all started when the hijab-wearing young female students were banned from entering schools in Karnataka. Given the religious value hijab holds for Muslim women, this step is not only a violation of citizens’ right; Article 25 and 26, to practice their religion and enjoy the freedom of expressing themselves through whatever attire they choose but also a reinforcement that India is following a clear policy of persecuting its Muslim population.

The hijab ban is one event in a series of events spurred by hatred and discrimination against India’s Muslim populace, which precisely began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed the government in 2014.

HRW’s response to this developing row in the Karnataka region of India has surfaced for the first time in two months since the issue started in December 2021. The issue is no less than a direct infringement on citizens’ right to education and religious freedoms. Not just that, the row is directly linked to girls’ education specifically, hence an attack on women rights as well.

Whilst the international community and civil society have been expressing grave concerns over women’s rights, education, and freedoms under the interim Taliban government in Afghanistan, the Karnataka episode drew attention rather slow.

Both countries fall in the same region and the international community’s different approaches to how women suffer under a democratically elected government in India and an interim Taliban government in Afghanistan seem to set different standards when it comes to human rights. HRW views the protests and the ban as ‘communal rifts’ furthered for the sake of political campaigning. However, Karnataka’s historical allegiance with the right-wing BJP has been overlooked here. This allegiance becomes apparent in reports of intentionally organizing students of MGM College, Udupi, Karnataka to protest against their hijab-wearing classmates and to record the protest by wearing saffron scarves and turbans.

The use of college students to further the nationalist agenda is a cause of serious alarm.

The use of college students to further the nationalist agenda is a cause of serious alarm. Even if the stakes and interests are political, a step like this can lead to an undoable radicalization among India’s youth. The South Asian region has already been through a deadly episode of radical violence for decades altogether in Afghanistan. With India overtly adopting policies of dividing and brutally exploiting its communal fault lines, especially with the religious overtones, its impact on the South Asian region can be long-lasting. While Pakistan, being a Muslim majority country and India’s next-door neighbor, condemns all such hate crimes and violence that right-wing Hindu nationalists in India are perpetrating, there is little to no condemnation from other countries in the region. Taliban in Afghanistan are trying to portray a soft image before the world to counter international anticipations that with Taliban rule, women will be forced into lives of misery. The international community does not easily buy these assurances when they come from Afghanistan but nearly turns a blind eye to how India is treating its women.



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