At least 18 people were arrested on Saturday for attacking staff members of a school in Suti village of Murshidabad district, West Bengal over reports that the Principal had asked some students to wear the school uniform instead of a burqa as he had to share pictures of students in uniform to the district administration.
On Saturday, a group of local residents surrounded the school demanding that the headmaster be ‘handed over’. The situation worsened in the afternoon as some members of the mob started resorting to violence and pelting stones. Police had to resort to lathi charge and fire tear-gas shells to disperse the mob.
Senior district police and administration officials rushed to the spot to defuse the situation. “We have arrested 18 persons. A search has been initiated to arrest a few more persons. Investigation is going on,” said Bholanath Pandey, superintendent of police of Jangipur. Late in the evening, the police rescued the teachers and the headmaster, who had locked themselves up inside the school building.
Incredibly, Principal Mitra has been suspended and a departmental inquiry has been initiated against him, although it appears he was only following education department directives. A section of villagers said that the students were given uniforms from the school. The teachers are supposed to send those pictures to the district administration. Hence the students were asked to wear uniform instead of burqa.
Later, a meeting was held on behalf of the school administration with the family members of the girl students. It was clarified by the school that there was ‘no such order’, reports India Today. The matter was settled after ‘negotiations’ between the school administration and students’ guardians.
Trinamool Congress MLA Jakir Hossain, who represents the Jangipur constituency, said,“The incident that took place at Bahutali high school in Suti is very unfortunate. Some miscreants started the brick-batting. The headmaster has been suspended and a few persons have been arrested.”
“A clash broke out in Suti. Some villagers said that the head master had asked the students to come in school uniform instead of burqa. The situation was later brought under control,” said Emani Biswas, TMC legislator of Suti.
“The headmaster had asked the students not to wear burqa. They were told to wear school uniform,” said Tahidul Islam, a local resident.
India Today replaces burqa with hijab in their reporting
From statements of all concerned, it is clear that the students of this school were wearing burqa (long, loose black garment covering the whole body from head to feet) and not hijab (head and neck covering). Yet India Today has conveyed that the violence broke out after students were told not to wear hijab!
Their report says “school allegedly forbade girl students from wearing a hijab and burqa to the class.” This seems to be a clear attempt to fudge the issue to draw a lazy parallel with the ‘hijab row’ currently raging in Karnataka schools. Let’s remind ourselves again about these basic differences in religious clothing of Muslim women:
The girls in this Murshidabad school were wearing the garment on the extreme right – if this does not scare any rational citizen, we don’t know what will.
While proponents of Hijab argue that it is merely a Muslim identity marker like the Sikh patka/turban or Hindu tilak, the fact is that the hijab is worn for a very different reason compared to any other religious clothing – its goal is to ‘protect girls from the male gaze’. The very idea that girls need to be covered up, that even the sight of their hair or neck can excite boys, is a troubling, sexist, unwanted message to send to young minds in school.
When even the conservative Muslim Education Group of Kerala that runs 150 educational institutions has banned hijab from its campuses, the demand that has suddenly arisen in Karnataka has no basis and is a cynical Islamist ploy.
But just imagine, Muslim girls in this Murshidabad school have been wearing burqa all along! How was this even allowed in the first place? Burqa is not mandated even in schools of Pakistan’s Lahore to the best of our knowledge! What medieval era are Muslims of this border district in West Bengal living in? Has this area been completely Talibanized?
And the WB administration has suspended Principal Mitra and completely surrendered to the violent mob. And instead of condemning the violence and taking the Muslim parents and locals who attacked the school to task, a ‘liberal’ media outlet like India Today is trying to water down the issue by stating that parents are fighting for hijab.
According to the 2011 census, Muslims formed around 66% of the total population in the border district of Murshidabad. It was the highest among all districts in Bengal. Malda had a Muslim population of 51%.