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ABVP imposes ban on wearing burkhas in rural college in Karnataka

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http://www.hindu.com/2009/03/03/stories/2009030354850700.htm

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*ABVP imposes ban on wearing burkhas in rural college in Karnataka *Sudipto
Mondal

PANJA VILLAGE/SULLIA TALUK: Muslim girls of the Government Composite
Pre-University College here have been banned from wearing burkhas by local
Hindutva outfits and the Bharatiya Janata Party-affiliated Akhil Bharathiya
Vidyarthi Parishad.

According to Lakshmisha Gobbalathadka, the self-proclaimed architect of the
ban, the idea was first proposed to the college authorities at his behest by
a few students affiliated to the ABVP in early January this year.

“Four of my boys spoke to the college principal and demanded that Muslim
girls be banned from wearing burkhas in classrooms,” said Mr. Gobbalathadka,
who is also the district convener of a fringe outfit called Hindu Jagarana
Vedike.

“We agreed immediately. We did not want any trouble,” said a college
official. But soon the demands began to grow. Emboldened by the support the
boys received from a section of students, they went on to extend the ban to
the entire 28-acre campus.

Once the ban was formalised by the college authorities, a groups of boys
took it upon themselves to impose it. “Every day, the boys sit at the tea
stall near the college gate. If we take even one step into the college gate
with the burkha on, they start scolding us,” said a 16-year-old class 10
student.
Violence on campus

Meanwhile, another controversy broke out on the campus after the ABVP
alleged that a Muslim boy had made a proposal of marriage to a Hindu girl.
“Our boys beat up the Muslim boy on February 28,” claimed Mr. Gobbalathadka.
At the college’s development committee meeting on January 29, a large group
of students, led by Mr. Gobbalathadka, barged in demanding that Muslim girls
stop wearing the burkha even on their way to and from the college. The
demand created a furore dividing committee members, according to college
principal, Balasubramaniam. Soon, hundreds of activists entered the venue
and physically attacked Muslim committee members and Hindus who opposed
their demands. Following the incident, Mr. Gobbalathadka and his followers
were arrested and remanded in judicial custody.
Growing support

“Many others have been inspired by the success we have had here. Soon, this
campaign will spread to all government colleges in the region,” Mr.
Gobbalathadka told *The Hindu*, and added that the garment would soon be
banned from public spaces in the entire village of Panja.

Panja gram panchayat president Rafique, who sustained injuries during the
January 29 violence, said:* “Some may feel that the burkha is a symbol of
oppression of women. Even if that is true, a resistance to the garment
should come from within the community. How can we tolerate somebody using
force to ban the burkha?”*

Reacting to the issue, Deputy Director of Public Instruction C. Chame Gowda
told *The Hindu*, “The college authorities might have agreed to the ban
under pressure. But there is no law that prevents the burkha. Everybody has
the right to practice their religious beliefs as long as it does not
inconvenience others.”

Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj expressed concern over the developments and
said he was still inquiring into the issue. “The rule of law and the
Constitution will prevail,” he said.