A secluded incident in Karnataka has hit the temperatures in Delhi as well. With Delhi, I mean the whole nation. But as the modus operandi goes- the issue has been taken up by various international agents. What supersedes — the law framed by the school or the freedom to profess a religion?
Not long ago I was reading VS Naipaul and I was quite startled as he describes the affectation orchestrated by the Hindu community. Here in the Hijab row, I see something old but distinct in the Muslims- proudly preaching every practice. No affectation at all. Taking charge of their identity without an iota of doubt and deliberation.
Having said this, I am personally of the opinion that Hijab represents a regressive mindset that needs to be thwarted. My reasons are beyond political slugfest. I would also add a caveat that reducing this matter to the face of a few teenage girls will be suicidal. The fissures will be drowned in the emotions of a human face, here woman. That girl in the picture might be a bright student or a dull one, might be courageous or fanatic but that’s not important. Even the best of men/women with a skewed theological construct will end up harming humanity, mostly unknowingly. I believe the Hijab row has opened up the friction points of our society and has now finally forced us to talk about theology/philosophy. It is not about the mere legal issue of having freedom of religion. I beg to disagree with this narrow constitutional framing of the issue. The argumentation presented in the High Court must haunt us. In 2022, under the garb of freedom of religion, arguments are being made which is bereft of sense, sensibility, sensitivity, and humanity.
“Women are not allowed or rather should not show any part of their body in front of male”- such impressive argument in court is surely the symbolism of courage!! Almost similar arguments were made in defense of Triple talaq.
The theological construct behind any religious practice is the root problem that needs to be tackled. When a woman inspired by such regressive theological construct stands up for her RIGHT, I actually empathize with her. Imagine being trained with such horrific theological sense and accepting it as the last truth. Terrible, isn’t it? A girl at 10 fighting for her divine right as she thinks Hijab is the way to spiritual heights. Sad!!
The same may be said for Ghunghat or Parda practiced in many other parts of the country as well. But did it have a theological sanction? No. Not at all. And therefore the change was less violent and easy(it was banned decades ago, meaning there is no religious+ traditional + legal sanction to it and slowly a change began). We are all witnesses to the change and that cannot be denied. When one has the theological backing of such practices then the matter of freedom to profess the religion must be secondary because the religion (and its theology) itself needs to be thought upon at first. If found on the wrong foot, a theological change is a must. That’s the way to proceed and not harp upon the freedom of religion as the only guiding principle.
Secondly, Bharat as a nation needs to define some nonnegotiables. As a nation what do we decry? This needs to be thought of. For example, we time and again say Bharat as a civilization had an inclusive orientation. Very true. But on this same land, we have some theological framework that denounces people on basis of religious beliefs. The world as per some theology is divided between the divine and the kafirs. Do we allow such thoughts to progress on our soil? If yes then is it not contradicting Bharat’s inclusive worldview where everyone(every living being ) is seen as divine. We need to denounce such practices which preach division. Bharat since millennia have absorbed and molded people as per the ideas of this land. Those ideas represent the beauty of Bharat. The sanctity of those ideas must be non-negotiable. Only non-negotiable ideas can hold and mold different sects of people into a living entity of social, material, and spiritual harmony. As and when we dilute the non-negotiables, we sow the seeds of destruction. We must be wary of any such action.
The world needs to heal. Individuals and bad mouths will come and go but theology remains. That is why I said the girl in the picture is not important but the philosophy/theology is. Let us decide what we stand for and not take an emotive decision. These issues are not about any single individual and freedom of religion but a way to mold society towards the path of progress. Theology affects generations. Generations will have to bear the brunt of our decision today. We need to think about where and how do we want to move forward!