Hijab row: What Twitter timelines of Udupi students reveals about agitation in Karnakata

The six students from the Udupi government college, who were the first to raise the issue of not being allowed in class wearing a hijab, have been sharing posts and are reportedly affiliated to Campus Front of India, a student wing of the Popular Front of India

FP Staff February 11, 2022 13:35:12 IST
Hijab row: What Twitter timelines of Udupi students reveals about agitation in Karnakata

The image which went viral on Twitter shows the girls sitting outside their classroom after they were denied entry for wearing their hijabs. Image Courtesy: @sadiq_cfi/Twitter

"They are making us choose between our faith and our education. What kind of equality is this?" AH Almas, one of the first students to start the hijab protest, was quoted as telling AFP.

In January this year, AH Almas, Aliya Assadi, Ayesha and Muskaan Zainab were among the first to protest when they returned to Government Women's PU college in Udupi, Karnataka wearing their hijabs.

It was then that they were told that they would not be allowed inside the classroom with their hijabs.

Also read: Explained: Difference between burqa, hijab and niqab

And since then, the issue has snowballed into a much bigger issue with more states wading into the row and also one of the students petitioning the Supreme Court against the Karnataka High Court’s interim order, which had stated that students would not wear any religious clothing till the matter was resolved and pushed the hearing for Monday.

As the row continues, let’s take a deep dive into who these students are and what has happened in the case.

Who are these girls?

According to An Jazeera report, AH Almas, the 18-year-old student at Women's Pre-University College in Udupi and her two friends were not allowed to sit in the classroom because they were wearing the hijab.

“When we arrived at the door of the classroom, the teacher said we cannot enter with the hijab,” Almas told Al Jazeera. “She asked us to remove it.”

Since then, a group of six Muslim students at a government-run women’s college in Udupi district in Karnataka sat outside their classroom because the administration alleges they are defying the rules by wearing the hijab, which is not part of the uniform.

Aliya Assadi, one of the girls who sat outside their classroom, had said they would not budge.

Their image of sitting outside class went viral after the national general secretary of Campus Front of India shared it on Twitter.

It is after this that the issue snowballed with Yashpal Suvarna, vice president of the Campus Development Committee saying that the girls were members of Campus Front of India {CFI} and they were just looking for a fight.

Also read: As Karnataka hijab row escalates, a look at laws on face coverings across the world

It is important to note here that the students have stated that while they weren’t members of CFI before the row erupted, they contacted CFI after the controversy. In a BBC report, AH Almas was quoted saying the same that she contacted the organisation when the college stopped them from attending classes.

However, this claim is questionable as her Twitter timeline shows that she has retweeted or shared information put out by the CFI soon after she joined the social networking site. Interestingly, AH Almas and the three others joined Twitter as recent as October 2021.

The other three — Aliya, Muskaan and Ayesha — also shared posts and information put out by CFI.

For instance, in November 2021, all of them had posted against the new education policy. Ayesha had tweeted, “The central government has stripped the state's right to a new national education policy. Kannada is now being torn down.”

The other three had posted similar tweets then. This issue had first been raised by the CFI.

The four girls following the same pattern in December 2021, shared CFI’s hashtag #BabriMasjidVictimofInjustice on the Babris Masjid demolition.

Their Twitter timelines show repeated instances of them sharing or posting tweets in sync with what the CFI was posting.

In November, the girls also posted messages in support of CFI’s calls for azaan.

But, what is CFI?

Let’s examine what the CFI group is and their role in the hijab row.

The Campus Front of India, as per their Facebook page, as a 'student organisation built for social change'.

The group is affiliated to the Islamist Muslim organisation Popular Front of India {PFI}. For those who aren’t aware, the PFI was set up in 2006 as a federation of the National Development Fund, which was formed in Kerala in 1993 and subsequently emerged as the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Forum for Dignity in Karnataka.

Reported information states that CFI was launched in New Delhi on 7 November, 2009. Muhammad Yusuff from Tamil Nadu was the founder president of Campus Front of India.

PT Muhamed Sadik, journalist-author and social commentator based in Kozhikode, in a Hindu report, states that the origin of the outfit could be traced to the Students Islamic Movement of India {SIMI}, which was formed by a group of supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind in the late 1970s.

Role CFI has played in hijab row

The CFI has been attributed for fuelling the hijab controversy in Karnataka.

Education Minister BC Nagesh had said that the CFI is behind the hijab conflict. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in a Times of India report also stated that the CFI was responsible for the row.

In a press release signed by Sumit Pandey, secretary, central office, ABVP said, "All these years this was not an issue. It is clear there is somebody behind the six students who first raised the issue."

With inputs from agencies

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