The controversy over wearing of ‘naqab’ (veil) by girls refuses to die down in Madhya Pradesh.
Women and child development minister Maya Singh, whose statement on Friday that she would “find a solution” to the veil problem after discussion with girl students kicked up a war of words, found a supporter in school education minister Paras Jain on Monday.
“Wearing ‘naqab’ has become a fashion among girls. They think that the naqab saves their skin from sunlight. But in our times there was no system of covering the face at the time of driving, and people used to move with their uncovered face,” Jain said. “It’s a matter of opinion, which may differ from person to person. I still drive my scooter without any veil, if people do this then well and good.”
Jain’s statement comes after Maya Singh stirred controversy by urging women to not wear the veil unless it for protection from the sun, drawing flak from Opposition party leaders and activists alike.
“Mostly women wear naqabs to protect themselves from the harmful rays of the sun, but apart from this they should not wear naqabs,” she said. “Before banning the naqab... I will call a meeting with school-going and college-going students to know their opinion and why they are wearing these masks all the time.”
“Once we know what the reasons are for girls wearing these naqabs here, we will find a solution for it,” added the minister.
Reacting to the two ministers’ comments, state Congress spokesperson Deepti Singh said, “I will again say that no one in the ruling party can contravene the freedom of appearance [expression], girls can choose to wear whatever they like right from a short dress to a naqab.”
“The ministers should rather check the rate of women-related crimes which is really high here. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders give statements like naqabs should not be worn, and acid sale should not be banned. They are really being insensitive to problems related to [women],” she added.
The women and child development minister’s comments have also not gone down well with rights activists.
“It is just sad to hear these statements coming from the education minister and women and child minister. The state capital is itself unsafe for girls, when will government leaders address this issue,” women rights activist Prathana Mishra said.
“And if girls feel safe wearing naqabs and covering their faces then what difference does it make if they do so?”
Mishra also said the veil had its advantages, citing a recent incident in which a girl’s face was saved during an acid attack because she was wearing a veil.