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Srinagar School Abaya ‘ban’ Triggers Student Protest

Several Vishwa Bharti Higher Secondary School students alleged they had been barred from wearing abayas on campus.

Image: Special arrangement.

Srinagar: Several students of Srinagar’s Vishwa Bharti Higher Secondary School protested the school administration’s alleged abaya ban on campus on Thursday.

Established in the 1950s, Vishwa Bharti is one of the oldest schools in Srinagar. The students protested outside the school, located in the Rainawari area, demanding the withdrawal of the ban on the full body-length garment worn by Muslim women.

“We were told to remove our abayas with the school arguing that it also affects other students who too start wearing them. It seems that wearing the abaya is bad according to them,” student Farhana Manzoor told the media. 

The students also alleged that the school administration made several offensive remarks, including asking them to study at madrasas instead of the school. 

“When they asked us to remove the abayas, we urged them to allow us to wear them as part of the uniform because we are uncomfortable without them. But they warned us against wearing abayas,” another class 12 student said.  

The students further alleged that they have been discouraged from participating in school activities because of wearing abayas. 

The school administration, however, refuted their allegations arguing that students were asked only to follow uniform guidelines. 

“They wear abayas of different colours. I told them cordially that they could change their clothes in the school. I don’t understand the outrage,” principal Memroz told the media after the protest. 

Regional political parties termed the school ‘directive’ insensitive and divisive.

“Order banning Abaya reeks of insensitivity & callousness of Vishwa Bharti School Rainawari. Does the school admin want communal tensions or repeat Karnataka here? Order must be retracted without delay to avoid any division in society marred with conflict,” PDP spokesperson Mohit Bhan tweeted. 

The National Conference said that dressing is a personal choice. Chief spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq requested the lieutenant governor and the police to intervene before the “situation escalates”. 

“Wearing a Hijab should be a personal choice, and there should be no interference in matters of religious attire. It is unfortunate to witness such incidents in a Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir. We strongly oppose this and urge for immediate corrective action.  This is the Vishwa Bharti Higher Secondary School Rainawari Srinagar,” he tweeted.

J&K BJP general secretary Ashok Koul also supported the students. We won’t decide anyone’s dress. There should be complete independence. We can’t force anyone to wear what he/she does not like. Students should wear what they want,” he told reporters at Srinagar.

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