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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 12 February 2022

Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 12 February 2022


  1. In a double bind, facing conservatism and politics

In a double bind, facing conservatism and politics


The controversy surrounding the wearing of ‘hijab’ in a college in Karnataka has once again exposed the inherent contradiction between the Indian State and the Indian model of secularism.


GS I: Women’s Issues, Government Policies & Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Conservatism surrounding Muslim Women
  2. Need for Muslim Women in Public sphere
  3. Exclusion of Women
  4. Efforts by Muslim Women to protect their rights
  5. Karnataka Hijab row
  6. Way Forward

Conservatism surrounding Muslim Women:

  • Women visiting graveyards:
    • The provision of Muslim Women entering graveyard is still a matter of discussion among the Muslim Community.
    • The subject of women visiting graveyards is a contentious one in the Sunni practice of Islam.
    • It is also believed that the Prophet forbade women from visiting graves.
    • A second narration holds that the prohibition was recanted and all believers were asked to visit graveyards — to remind themselves of their return to the Divine.
  • Muslim Women entering the shrines:
    • Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai banned women from entering the shrine’s inner sanctum.
    • However, this ban was upturned by the judiciary.
    • But it still remains a bone of contention amongst shrine leadership and management.

Need for Muslim Women in Public sphere:

  • All these debates has less to do with religious stipulations and far more to do with the deep discomfort that emerges from seeing Muslim women occupying public spaces in India.
  • Muslim Women Representation:
    • Most voices that claim to politically or societally represent Muslims in India have been male.
    • Even in the electoral sphere, this remains a historically underrepresented group.
    • Muslim Women make up to 6.9% of the Indian population. However, their representation in Lok Sabha is mere 0.6% as per the latest report released in 2019.
  • Personal Law: On the matter of Personal Law, after the volatility of the Shah Bano judgment and the passing of the dilutive Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, the country’s Islamic leadership had the opportunity to treat the misuse of legal provisions as an internal matter.
    • A better mode of communication: The Muslim community has the rare, inbuilt grassroots communication system of Friday prayers and the khutba (sermon). This platform can be utilised to address the issue better. However, this mode community remains underutilised.
    • But, a majority of mosque doors remain closed to women.

Exclusion of Women:

  • Women denied entry into Mosques:
    • Mosques in India do not allow Muslim women to worship.
    • Few critics argue that the exclusion of women from spaces of prayer and community is a deep injustice and a consequence of ignorance.
    • Impact:
      • The spiritual and social needs of women are compromised for masculine comfort.
      • This has a larger impact on the entire social fabric of Indian Islam.
      • All these emphases on the need for the Uniform Civil Code as an act of rescue.
  • Triple Talaq: As mediaperson Sonali Verma puts it, the declaration of triple talaq, while posturing as a pro-women move, remains mired in communal politics.
  • The invisibilisation of the Muslim women means that there is an artificial lacuna in which multiple bodies claim to speak for them.

Efforts by Muslim Women to protect their rights:

  • Few Instances where Muslim women occupied public and political space include protests for Citizenship (Amendment) Act and Shaheen Bagh sit-in.
  • These protests of the veiled Muslim woman show that they stopped being synonymous with passivity.
  • The visual metaphor of visible Muslim women protesting in the name of the Constitution and democratic principles subverts many mainstream imaginations.
  • Consequences of these Protests:
    • The response to the protests were ruthless and led to humiliations of Muslim women.
    • From potent invisibilisation and portrayals as objects needing rescue, the Right has turned to a hypersexualisation of Muslim women.
    • There were online campaigns encouraging the abuse of and violence against Muslim women.
    • Criticisms and hate messages were not uncommon.
    • Example: This took a particularly crude turn with Sulli Deals (in 2021) and its successor, Bulli Bai (in 2022) where images of influential Muslim women were ‘auctioned’ online.

Karnataka Hijab row:

  • How did it begin?
    • An educational institution in Karnataka did not allow Muslim girls wearing Hijab inside their campus.
  • Arguments against the ban:
    • A segment argued that this is to prevent ‘regressive/religious practices’ from seeping into secular spaces.
    • This is called regressive with Islamic practices.
    • This is a direct violation of the girls’ fundamental right to education.
    • The ban serves no purpose but to propagate a malicious narrative that on the one hand pretends to save Muslim women and on the other denies them the tools to craft their own narrative.
  • Analysing the impact:
    • This incident imply that Muslim women occupying public spaces leading to shame have become common and they fear that this can be witnessed in the future as well.
    • They are prone to occupy a Middle path where they are forced to occupy spaces on two ends of the spectrum — one that requires a compromise of political agency and the second that requires accepting an exclusion from one’s own community.
    • The present situation questions the state of Indian democracy and its political axis as a whole.
    • This can be seen as an impact of the ideals of Secular democaracy.

Way Forward:

  • A non-representative leadership is a breeding ground for polarisation, spillovers of which affect beyond gendered and religious lines.
  • Though the campaign of Muslim women to occupy public spaces and protect democracy be a lonely one, it is necessary to fight for it.
  • The current political climate makes it inevitable to secure an equal and democratic India.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023