Afshan Khan for BeyondHeadlines
“All the girls and boys are requested to remove their stalls, caps, dupattas etc., there should not be anything covering your neck,” said a man who was not an invigilator. I couldn’t figure out who he was, but it seemed that he was one of the teachers of the school (centre for my NET exam). I did not really react to his statement, I preferred to ignore the instruction as I was already tensed due to the exam. On this, any attack on my hijab disturbed, having always experienced such things.
After an hour, the man entered the hall again and said, “please remove your shawls”. I felt irritated and said, “Sir kindly send a lady who can check us, we will not untie Shawls or headscarves,” before I could complete the sentence, the girls sitting in the same room had already removed their shawls, some willingly and some unwillingly.
I wanted to escape any kind of argumentation, therefore kept quiet and kept filling the answers.
Then he directly ordered me, “You please do what I am saying”. “Sorry sir! I really can’t do this at any cost,” I told.
He said that if I was feeling cold he could shut the door of examination hall and he won’t mind it. He said that he cannot take any risk because this is written in CBSE notification. I replied by saying that, It was my religious code and I too had read the instructions, the dress code is not mentioned for NET. A boy who wasn’t known to me raised his hand and said, “Sir! If she does not want to remove her scarf then you cannot force her.”
Although I was determined that I would not do away with my hijab, even if I had to leave the exam, still I was not able to concentrate. I was thinking about possibility that my exam might get cancelled.
The man visited the hall several times but did not say anything after that. My first paper was ruined because I kept thinking about all this. At that time I was safe but I thought that probably other girls also had to face situations like this.
I talked to many girls and most of them told me that they did not face any situation of this sort, at some centres there was no checking. I want to raise this question that why people are confused regarding the notifications of CBSE for NEET AIPMT and for UGC NET, why there is no uniformity in rules?
In the year 2015, Students Islamic Organisation had filed a PIL that the girls who practice Islam and wear Hijab, which is an essential religious practice will be forced to abandon the exam if the dress code enforced by the CBSE will not be changed.
But the Supreme Court had dismissed the petition saying that the faith is not connected to the clothes you wear and removing a hijab during exam will not make them less religious. The petitioners said that the girls are ready to come two hours before the commencement of exam to facilitate security checks, I think that was the best solution. Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde had agreed that wearing a hijab is an essential religious matter, while chief justice of India Justice Dattu responded by saying that it is nothing but an ego.
I still remember the day when my cousin was crying, when she had to wear a half sleeve dress for the first time in her life and was asked to remove her stole before entering the hall. She says that she felt like someone had humiliated her and her dignity was sacrificed.
Although she too went through the notifications of CBSE for NEET AIPMT but still she hoped that there would be an exception for religious dress code but her hopes vanished soon.
I remember that I was thoroughly checked by a lady security guard but I was asked to remove all the hair pins and pins that I use to affix my scarf but luckily I was able to cover my hair without which I never appear in public.
I feel really sad about these incidents. Recently, a girl, Humera Khan was also not allowed to board in Delhi Metro because of her hijab despite of all the checking’s and her cooperation with security guards.
Vijay Goel also compared a woman in burqa with a woman in cage with his tweet which made me feel pity about his thinking, however he clarified that he was misunderstood which every politician does.
One of my friends had gone for a trial on scooty as part of the process for getting her driving license.She was also asked to remove her hijab. She tried to explain that it was not possible for her, but still they insisted upon this and warned that she would not get the driving license, if she does not follow the instructions.
She said the same thing what me and my cousin had said, she had also felt humiliated and insulted. I wonder how these people act as a classical Hindi movie villain.
There was a time when I used to hear about an attack on Hijab and Burqa in countries like U.S.A., France, Belgium, China and Canada and I used to feel proud of my country that we do not have to face such things. I always felt relief by thinking that our constitution makers had made the greatest constitution of the world and they included article 25 which secures my rights as a Muslim and those who belong to different religions.
We really need to revive the spirit of constitution and practice it. Otherwise on the name of security, we will continue remaining insensitive towards the sentiments of different communities.
I have faced this many times in my life, my classmates had debates with me asking me extreme questions and alleged me of being a conservative. My school teachers had given me unconditional love throughout my school life, but when they saw me in hijab for the first time, they advised me lovingly to avoid “fundamentalism”.
For a while let us forget that headscarf is a religious code, take an example of a girl who covers her hair and wears a full sleeved clothes. If she does this out of choice and individual preference only. In that case, Is she still a conservative ? If not then why is a religious man or woman always considered as being a conservative? Think about this girl, how she will feel if all of a sudden she is asked to reveal her body.
‘A woman should be allowed to dress the way she wants and prefers’ , this is largely supported by the “liberals” of our society. But when it comes to Hijab and Burqa then some people including some of the “liberals” start adopting a paternalistic kind of behavior by advising these sisters to abandon it in order to get ‘liberated’.