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In hijab row, critics say India’s BJP looking for votes in southern state

UDUPI, India: A collection of non secular legal guidelines promoted by India’s ruling Hindu nationalist celebration in the southern state of Karnataka, together with a ban on the sporting of hijabs, is elevating issues the divisive measures will stoke sectarian tensions extra prevalent in the nation’s north.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just lately banned sporting the hijab in lecture rooms in Karnataka, the one one in every of India’s 5 southern states it guidelines. A proposal to make non secular conversions largely unlawful is being thought-about by the native legislature.

The strikes have change into a problem of rivalry involving India’s Muslim minority. Opposition events and lots of political analysts accuse the BJP of fomenting tensions in Karnataka to consolidate its attraction to majority Hindus, like they say it has elsewhere in the nation.

Modi’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to a request looking for remark.

The BJP has denied that Karnataka’s Feb 5 hijab ban, a current invoice aimed toward primarily stopping conversion of poor Hindus to Christianity and Islam, and a 2021 legislation prohibiting the slaughter of cows – thought-about sacred in Hinduism – had been designed to pander to the bulk neighborhood.

“The hijab controversy started as a very localised issue that could have been nipped in its bud”, mentioned Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist who has taught in Karnataka.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed as to what would be the repercussions of a verdict on the issue,” Shastri added, referring to a petition in the excessive courtroom looking for to overturn the hijab ban.

“Is it going to further damage the social fabric in the state?”

Karnataka’s capital is the cosmopolitan hub Bengaluru, a metropolis of about 12 million individuals that’s the centre of India’s booming IT trade.

The faculty ban on the hijab – the standard masking of the hair and neck worn by Muslim girls – fanned protests by some Muslim college students and oldsters round Karnataka earlier in the month. There had been some counter protests by Hindu college students draped in saffron-coloured shawls, normally worn by Hindus.

There was no violence however such tensions are a hot-button problem in India, the place Muslims account for about 13 per cent of the nation’s 1.35 billion individuals. India has skilled a number of lethal Hindu-Muslim riots since independence in 1947, however hardly any of them in the south.

BJP’s Karnataka spokesperson Ganesh Karnik blamed Muslims for looking for what he known as a distinct id by insisting on sporting the hijab in class, and mentioned the dispute may unite Hindus.

“They look at every issue as a victim,” mentioned Karnik. “If they take a stand, the Hindu community will also take a stand. Our young girls and boys will be disturbed (thinking) why are they being given a special privilege?”

He mentioned the BJP was assured of retaining energy in Karnataka state elections subsequent yr after which increasing additional in the area.

“We are expanding, we will rule more southern states. If not today, tomorrow, if not tomorrow, the day after,” Karnik mentioned.

In Uttar Pradesh state in the north, dwelling to greater than 200 million individuals and the bellwether of nationwide politics, a long-running dispute between Hindus and Muslims over a non secular web site has change into the central problem in ongoing state elections in which Modi’s BJP is looking for to retain energy.


Muzaffar Assadi, a political analyst who teaches at Karnataka’s University of Mysore, mentioned the hijab problem targets youth who can be 18 and eligible to vote in time for subsequent yr’s state election and the nationwide election, which is due in 2024.

“They are potential voters, so you just rake up the issue, create a wedge and ultimately you have a base for the next election,” mentioned Assadi.

Muslims say the hijab row is one other instance of their marginalisation since Modi first took workplace in 2014 on a platform of fine governance and a robust Hindu id.

Modi has defended his file and says his financial and social insurance policies profit all Indians.

Analysts and opposition leaders say the vitiated political atmosphere in Karnataka may dent Bengaluru’s attraction as a favoured vacation spot for migrants and expatriates.

“Karnataka is a very diverse state and people have lived here in harmony for long,” mentioned Abdul Majeed, state chief of the Social Democratic Party of India that primarily fights for Muslim causes.

“But electoral politics is threatening communal harmony day by day. In this age of social media, everyone is watching what is happening in Karnataka.”



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