Hawzah News Agency –The Indian state of Karnataka has shut its schools for three days after the regional government backed schools imposing a ban on hijabs, leading to widespread protests and violence. The issue began in January, when six female Muslim students staged a weeks-long protest after they were told to either remove their headscarves or stop attending class at a government college in the district of Udupi. Last week, other colleges in the state began to enforce bans after some Hindu students, backed by rightwing Hindu groups, protested that if hijabs were allowed in classrooms, they should be allowed to wear saffron shawls. Saffron is the colour that has become commonly associated with Hindu nationalism. On Saturday, in an apparent backing of schools’ right to impose a ban, the Karnataka state government directed colleges to ensure that “clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn”. Muslim students have argued that their right to freedom of religion is being violated, and have taken the issue to state high court. The students have argued that “religious apartheid” is being imposed in some colleges where women in a hijabs are being allowed to enter but are being kept in separate classrooms. The issue has proved highly inflammatory. At some colleges, Muslim students have been aggressively heckled, while in others the protests between students turned violent, prompting police to charge at crowds and fire into the air. On Tuesday, the state chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai suspended schools and colleges for three days and urged students and teachers to “maintain peace and harmony”. Karnataka is run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which governs at a national level too. Under its watch there has been a rising tide of anti-Muslim violence and sentiment across India, where 12% of the population is Muslim. The BJP state chief in Karnataka, Nalin Kumar Kateel, has said banning the hijab would ensure that classrooms did not become “Taliban-like”. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, was highly critical. “By letting students’ hijab come in the way of their education, we are robbing the future of the daughters of India,” he said. “Prohibiting hijab-wearing students from entering school is a violation of fundamental rights.” The situation also drew condemnation from the Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who said the situation was “horrifying” and called on Indian leaders to stop the “marginalisation of Indian women”. Muslim students at Dr BB Hegde College in Udupi described how they had turned up to classes last Thursday and found they were barred entry by a large group of men, including fellow students, who were wearing saffron shawls. The group had demanded the Muslim students remove their hijabs. By Friday, the nine Muslim female students – out of more than 1,000 enrolled in the college – had been banned from entering through the school gates in a veil. The principal informed the women that it was a government order and that they must go to the bathroom to remove their hijabs or they could not attend class. After the girls refused to remove their headscarves, the gates of the school were locked to prevent them entering and several police officers were called. Rabiya Khan, a student at the college, said the school’s leadership had come under pressure from rightwing Hindu groups. “The Hindutva [hardline Hindu nationalism] elements don’t have a problem with the hijab, they have problem with our whole religious and cultural identity,” she said. Even though many Hindu students in their classes had privately voiced support for their right to wear a hijab, they were keeping quiet because they were fearful of the actions of vigilante groups, said Khan. As the row erupted and she was sent home from school, Khan’s parents told her to remove the hijab so at least she could still continue getting an education, with her crucial exams just two months away. “But I told them that if we give up, it will boost the morale of communal elements and create problems for the Muslim students in the future,” Khan said. “We have to make sacrifices and stay strong.” Khan emphasised that the Muslim students had never voiced any objection to Hindu students wearing saffron shawls. Saniya Parveen, 20, another Muslim student at the college, said she had worn a hijab to college for three years with no objections, and that Muslims and Hindus had always studied together side-by-side peacefully. Parveen said she and her fellow Muslim students were anxiously waiting for the outcome of the court order to find out whether they would be able to return to their studies. “I hope we will be allowed to attend classes in hijab,” she said. “It is our religious compulsion and a constitutional right; we are not going to surrender.” In Bhandarkars’ Arts and Science College in Udupi district, where a hijab ban was also enforced, one student spoke of her despair at Muslim students being made to feel like “beggars at the college gates”. “It is humiliating,” she said. “We used to feel so safe inside the campus and never felt we were in any way different from our Hindu classmates. Suddenly we are being made to feel like outsiders. For the first time we were made to realise that we were Muslims and they are Hindus.” In a statement, the national spokesperson for Vishva Hindu Parishad, one of the rightwing groups at the forefront of the anti-hijab protests, termed the hijab row “a conspiracy to propagate jihadi terrorism” and said that Muslim students were attempting “hijab jihad” in college campuses. Apoorvanand, a professor of Hindi at the University of Delhi, said the controversy was part of a larger project whereby “Muslim identity markers are being declared as sectarian and undesirable in public spaces”. “It is telling Muslims and non-Hindus that the state will dictate their appearance and their practices,” he said. On Monday, some students in hijabs were allowed into the government pre-university college in Udupi but were forced to sit in segregated classrooms. “We were made to sit in a separate room and no teacher came to teach us,” said one student. “We were just sitting there like criminals.”
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– Thousands of people took to the streets in Yemen’s Northwestern city of Sa’ada and elsewhere on Friday to condemn the Saudi-led coalition’s military aggression and brutal siege on the Arab country.
Marking the ‘National Day of Cry in the Face of Aggressors’, demonstrators took part in a massive rally in Sa’ada to reaffirm their resolve to continue their spirited resistance until the logical end, presstv reported.
The participants waved Yemen’s national flag and chanted vociferous slogans such as “Death to America”, “Death to House of Saud”, and “Death to Israel” while expressing rage and indignation over the Saudi-led coalition’s continued atrocities and crimes in Yemen.
“The slogan ‘Cry in the Face of Aggressors’ shattered the lengthy silence on domestic issues and exposed the conspiracies of enemies. It had an instrumental role in preserving the religious identity of Yemen,” the protesters said in a joint communiqué.
“The Yemeni nation must carry out its duties and mobilize forces en masse against enemies. We urge freedom-loving people in the Saudi-occupied Yemeni territories to stand up against coalition forces and their mercenaries, and expel them from their local communities,” they added.
The statement warned the foreign military coalition against persisting with its aggression, and emphasized that Yemen will “remain a free and independent country”.
“We warn of the danger of normalization with the Zionist enemy, and reiterate our full preparedness to side with the axis of resistance in the fight against the oppression of the Palestinian nation,” it further noted.
Elsewhere in the capital city of Sana’a, people carried Yemeni flags as well as pictures of former and current Ansarullah leaders, Hussein Badreddin Al-Houthi and Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi.
They chanted slogans against Saudi crimes in the country, and reaffirmed resolve to continue their determined resistance.
The development came as the United Nations announced that the truce between the warring Yemeni sides had been extended for two more months.
The initial two-month truce started at the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on April 2 and was set to expire on Thursday.
“I would like to announce that the parties to the conflict have agreed to the United Nations’ proposal to renew the current truce in Yemen for two additional months,” UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said.
Grundberg added that the truce extension would come into effect “when the current truce period expires, today June 2, 2022, at 19:00 Yemen time (1600 GMT)”.
“The announcement of the truce extension today shows a serious commitment from all parties to end the senseless suffering of millions of Yemenis,” the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Yemen Country Director, Erin Hutchinson, said in a statement after the announcement.
“The last two months have shown that peaceful solutions to the conflict are a real option,” he added.
Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with its Arab allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and other Western states.
The objective was to reinstall the Riyadh-friendly regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of a functional government in Yemen.
While the Saudi-led coalition has failed to meet any of its objectives, the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.