What Ambedkar Observed About Purdah Applies Equally To Hijab: Karnataka High Court In Its Order Today

by Harsha Bhat - Mar 15, 2022 06:57 PM +05:30 IST
What Ambedkar Observed About Purdah Applies Equally To Hijab: Karnataka High Court In Its Order Today(Image for representative purpose only/Pixabay)
Snapshot
  • The court also clarified that this does not ‘rob off the autonomy of women‘ or their right to education in as much as they can wear the clothes of their choice outside the classroom.

The Karnataka High Court in its order on the hijab controversy today quoted Dr B R Ambedkar and his observations on purdah and said that they applied to the wearing of hijab too.

It quoted the following paragraph from the Chapter titled ‘Social Stagnation’, where Ambedkar wrote:

“...A woman (Muslim) is allowed to see only her son, brothers, father, uncles, and husband, or any other near relation who may be admitted to a position of trust. She cannot even go to the Mosque to pray, and must wear burka (veil) whenever she has to go out.

"These burka woman walking in the streets is one of the most hideous sights one can witness in India...The Muslims have all the social evils of the Hindus and something more. That something more is the compulsory system of purdah for Muslim women... Such seclusion cannot have its deteriorating effect upon the physical constitution of Muslim women...

"Being completely secluded from the outer world, they engage their minds in petty family quarrels with the result that they become narrow and restrictive in their outlook... They cannot take part in any outdoor activity and are weighed down by a slavish mentality and an inferiority complex...Purdah women in particular become helpless, timid...

Considering the large number of purdah women amongst Muslims in India, one can easily understand the vastness and seriousness of the problem of purdah...As a consequence of the purdah system, a segregation of Muslim women is brought about…”

Under the section titled ‘International conventions and emancipation of women’, the court in its order highlighted the views of the ‘Chief Architect of our Constitution’.

While quoting from Ambedkar’s book Pakistan Or The Partition Of India (1954), the court observed that there is a ’lot of scope for the argument that insistence on wearing of purdah, veil, or headgear in a community may hinder the process of emancipation of woman in general and Muslim woman in particular.

And this, according to the Karnataka High Court, militates against our constitutional spirit of opportunity’ of ‘public participation’ and ‘positive secularism’.

The court added that the prescription of a school dress code that excludes the hijab, bhagwa or any other apparel symbolic of religion ‘can be a step forward in the direction of emancipation and more particularly, to the access to education’.

The court also clarified that this does not ‘rob off the autonomy of women‘ or their right to education in as much as they can wear the clothes of their choice outside the classroom.


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