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Revoke Hijab Ban, Repeal Discriminatory Provisions: Amnesty India Calls On New Government In Karnataka

Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge on Wednesday said the orders and legislations enforced under the previous BJP regime like school textbook revision and anti-conversion laws, which are against the state's interest, would be revised or withdrawn by the new Congress government after reviewing them.

Karnataka High Court had earlier upheld the institutional ban on hijab.
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Days after the Congress scored a thumping victory in Karnataka, Amnesty India has asked the government to revoke the ban on women wearing hijab in educational institutions, along with reviewing and repealing the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020 and the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2022, which it says "can be misused and weaponized against minorities." 

The Karnataka High Court upheld an order issued by the state on February 5, 2022, which suggested that wearing hijabs can be restricted by the government colleges where uniforms are prescribed and ruled that “prescription of a school uniform” is a “reasonable restriction” that is “constitutionally permissible”.

Since then, thousands of Muslim girls across the state were robbed of their access to education and a sizable number of women were even unable to appear for their examinations, a report by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Karnataka revealed. 

"Immediately revoke the ban on women wearing hijabs in educational institutions. The ban forces Muslim girls to choose between their rights to freedom of expression and religion, and their right to education, hindering their ability to meaningfully participate in society," Amnesty India said.

It further said that ahead of the state elections, calls for economic boycott and violence against Muslim people were made with impunity. "Ensure accountability for such advocacy of hatred and end hate crimes that are motivated by religious and caste-based discrimination," it further said.

Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge on Wednesday said the orders and legislations enforced under the previous BJP regime like school textbook revision and anti-conversion laws, which are against the state's interest, would be revised or withdrawn by the new Congress government after reviewing them.

He said the new government would withdraw all the legislations and orders that hamper the state's economic progress and prosperity, and goes against the interests of Kannadigas. "Previous government had decided to observe certain jayantis (birth anniversary of prominent figures) and left out others. Not only jayantis, their orders, whether it is regarding textbooks, anti-cow slaughter, anti-conversion bills (laws), all of them will be revised," Kharge said.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "All those bills (laws) and orders that hamper the economic progress of Karnataka, its prosperity, and will affect Kannadigas, will be withdrawn. Making Karnataka once again the number one is our intention, and we will take steps in that direction." Kharge, the son of AICC President Mallikarjun Kahrge, is one among eight ministers inducted into the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led cabinet last week.

The Karnataka Legislative Assembly had passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2022, (popularly called the anti-conversion Bill) last year by voice vote amid walkout by Opposition Congress members.

While defending the controversial Bill, the Home Minister Araga Jnanendra had claimed that in recent years the state had noticed many instances of conversion by means of “allurement”, “coercion”, “force”, “fraudulent means” and also “mass conversion”.

According to a report by Deccan Herald, up until December last year, the police booked nine cases in the state under the law. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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