Srinagar: A local school’s denying entry to girls wearing abaya, a loose cloak worn by Muslim women, has evoked sharp reactions from all quarters in Kashmir with PDP president Mehbooba Mufti terming it an attack on religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution.
“Jammu and Kashmir has become a laboratory for BJP’s plans of changing Gandhi’s India into Godse’s India. All experiments begin from here. It started off in Karnataka and has reached Kashmir. This is not acceptable to us. There will be a serious reaction to it because wearing clothes is a personal choice. There should be no compulsion,” Mufti said.
She said the ban order was an attack on religious freedom which will “not be tolerated.”
“They are harassing our religious leaders, be it Dawoodi, Veeri, Barkati or Mohammad Shafi. Yesterday, the NIA called Rehmatullah (Qasmi) for questioning. This is a direct attack on our religion. They are attacking the freedom of religion, freedom of choice to wear and eat that is granted by the constitution of the country.
“This will not be tolerated, we have had enough. In 2019, they attacked our dignity and identity but now it has come to our religion as well,” she said.
Earlier in the day, several female students of Vishwa Bharti Higher Secondary School here staged a protest against its administration, alleging they were denied entry to the institute for wearing abaya.
School principal Memroz Shafi said the students had been told that they can wear abaya from home to school, but they should take it off inside the school premises.
“We told them to wear a long white-coloured Hijab or a large dupatta as that is part of the school uniform. They come wearing colourful abayas, with different designs which is not part of the uniform,” he said.
National Conference (NC) chief spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq said it was unfortunate to witness such incidents in the Muslim-majority Union Territory.
“Wearing a Hijab should be a personal choice, and there should be no interference in matters of religious attire. It is unfortunate to witness such incidents in a Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir,” Sadiq said in a tweet.
Nasirul Islam, Grand Mufti, Jammu and Kashmir, said while the school has issued a clarification, girls have a right to protect their modesty by wearing abaya.
“A rebuttal has been issued by the educational institution that they have not issued any order banning the abaya. The school, which was earlier for girls only, has now become co-educational school. Hence, the girls have all the right to wear burqa to maintain their modesty,” Islam said.
BJP General Secretary Ashok Koul said his party was not in favour of imposing dress codes.
“It’s a religious issue. We are neither against it, nor in its favour. A person is free to wear whatever she wants. If anyone wants to wear a saree or salwar, there should be no compulsion in it.
“Every person is free to wear clothes of their choice,” Koul said.
Darakshan Andrabi, chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board, was the sole voice to support the ban.
“Colleges have a uniform, which is compulsory. Every profession works as per a dress code be it teachers’ or doctors’. The education system will deteriorate if the students don’t wear the uniform,” Andrabi said.