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J&K: Students say denied entry to schools for wearing abaya

ByAshiq Hussain, Srinagar
Jun 09, 2023 12:30 AM IST

The students of Vishwa Bharti Girls Higher Secondary School in Rainawari area alleged the administration was forcing them to remove the Abaya before entering the premises

Several female students of a higher secondarysemi-governmentschool in Srinagar on Thursday staged a protest after they were allegedly denied entry to the institute for wearing the Abaya – a full-length loose-fitting robe worn over clothes by Muslim women.

Family members of students protest for allegedly not allowing students to enter the school premises wearing 'Abaya', in Srinagar. (ANI)

The students of Vishwa Bharti Girls Higher Secondary School in Rainawari area alleged the administration was forcing them to remove the Abaya before entering the premises, and asked them to attend classes in madrassas if they wish to keep the robe on.

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School authorities, however, denied the allegation and said no ban was imposed and students can wear the Abaya over the uniform.

Over two dozen students from classes 11 and 12 staged a protest outside the school against the administration’s purported decision to not allow the Abaya in the premises.

“Yesterday, we were told that they (school authorities) will not allow us to enter the school if we wear an Abaya. They told us that our dress is not right and is affecting other students. They also said we should go and study in madrassas if we want to wear an Abaya,” a student said.

“How is the Abaya a hindrance to education? We are school toppers and we just want to study in peace,” the student added.

A second student said they tried to reason with the school management but to no avail. “We are not comfortable studying among boys without the Abaya but they told us that we should go to a madrassa if we were not ready to remove them,” the student said.

School principal Nimroz Shafi said she had only requested the students to wear a white Hijab (headscarves covering hair and neck) as part of the uniform. “They come wearing multiple colors and designs (Abaya). We told them to come in white long Hijabs,” she said.

In a statement later, Shafi said the school management “always respects the sentiments of all the sections of the society vis a vis the dress code”.

“That it has been running on social media that female students have been directed not to wear Abaya (Long Robe) which is totally baseless and misrepresented. It is clarified that no ban has been imposed by the School Principal or the Management on wearing Abaya but it was politely conveyed to the students to wear school uniform underneath the Abaya,” she said.

“It is for the information of all students that they can wear the Abaya and no such restrictions have been imposed in the classrooms. Today’s conversation with the students and the parents has been misrepresented and in any case if it has hurt the sentiments of the students or the parents, I unconditionally apologise for the same,” she added.

The issue evoked sharp responses from all quarters in the Valley.

People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti called the school’s alleged directive an attack on religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution.

“J&K has become a laboratory to turn this into Godse’s India. The issue (of Hijab) had started in Karnataka and now they want to implement it in J&K. This is unacceptable and will elicit a bad reaction. Whosoever wants to wear anything should be one’s personal choice. Nothing should be imposed,” she said.

“Our Constitution has allowed us freedom to wear, eat or have a religion. All this is being attacked which is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated,” she added,

J&K’s Grand Mufti Nasirul Islam said the school was earlier only for girls and was later converted into a coeducational institution. “Girl students have every right to wear Burqa in a coed school and the administration should also keep in mind that a dress code is also related to one’s religion or modesty as well,” he said.

BJP’s J&K general secretary(Org) Ashok Koul said every person has the right to wear whatever one wants. “Somebody wants to wear a Sari or a Shalwar, it is one’s personal choice. There should be no coercion. Everybody is free and let everyone wear as per his/her choice,” he said.

However, J&K Waqf Board chairperson and BJP leader Darakshan Andrabi stressed on the importance of uniforms in educational institutions. “There is uniformity in educational institutions when a uniform is worn and a university, college, court or a doctor works according to a code,” she said.

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