A government circular asking strict implementation of uniforms in government schools faces strong opposition from students and their parents. As the circular lacks clarity whether hijab is allowed or not along with the uniform, students and their parents fear it may result in banning hijab in future.
NEW DELHI—Lakshadweep, the smallest Union Territory of the country, faces yet another controversy.
Earlier, it was in the news about the island’s administrator and a Gujarati politician Praful Khodabhai Patel issuing an order to ban slaughter of bulls, calves and cows, and acquire land for “development” purposes.
The residents had opposed it as they felt it was being done to allot the government land to corporate houses.
Muslims account for more than 90 per cent of the island’s population.
Now the island is embroiled in a new controversy. This time it is about uniforms in government schools.
The local residents staged a protest against the school uniform order on August 11 as they suspected that this is a move to ban head scarf as it was done in Karnataka by the previous BJP government.
Political parties like Congress and Nationalist Congress Party plan to organize democratic agitations against it. School students may also boycott the classes.
The circular pertaining to school uniforms issued on August 10, has asked school authorities to ensure that students don’t wear clothes other than the prescribed uniforms. This means that if hijab is not there in the uniform, girl students can’t wear it. This effectively bans the wearing of hijab.
The fiat was issued by UT’s education director Rakesh Dahiya.
“All principals and heads of schools are directed that every student attends the school in prescribed uniform only which will not only ensure uniformity, unity and spirit of brotherhood but also instill discipline among students. Hence principals and heads of schools are instructed to strictly adhere to the uniform pattern approved on all working days. Non-compliance with the order will be viewed seriously,” says the circular.
The uniform prescribed by the education department is tie, belt, socks and shoes for all students.
Boys up to Class V are required to wear half-pants (check design) and half-sleeve sky blue colour shirts while their seniors from Class VI to Class XII are asked to come to school in navy blue full pants and sky-blue half-sleeve shirts.
The girls up to Class V have to wear check design skirts and half-sleeve sky blue shirts and the senior girls from VI to Class XII have to wear navy blue divider skirts and sky-blue half-sleeve shirts.
Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have opposed the uniform saying it is an attack on Lakshadweep’s culture.
NCP MP from Lakshadweep Mohammed Faizal, in a Facebook post, urged the island people, especially the parents’ community, to resist any move by the administration to impose a hijab ban in schools.
Mr. Faizal said that the official circular did not say anything about hijab, but it instructed principals and heads of schools to ensure that the students didn’t wear items other than the prescribed ones.
“We suspect it is a move to discourage girls from wearing hijab. The students may not wear hijab due to fear. So, we demand the administration should withdraw the order,” said Mr. Faizal.
He alleged that each law was imposed in such a way that it rooted out the customs, religious beliefs, eating habits, and dressing patterns that have been followed by the islanders for ages.
Lakshadweep Youth Congress leader Ali Akbar, whose party organised a protest against the circular, said that though the school authorities did not question students for wearing hijab on Friday, the order may be enforced from next week.
He said, “We will organise a march to the block development offices and education department offices on Wednesday.”
Congress leader and ex-MP Muhammed Hamdullah Sayeed alleged that the new circular was an attack on the region’s intrinsic culture and lifestyle. He alleged, “The BJP-led government at the Centre and the
Lakshadweep administration were continuously attempting to implement anti-people policies that were totally against the culture and ethos of the islands.”
Mr. Sayeed added, “We will not allow any such directive that destroys the culture and existing lifestyle of Lakshadweep. Such impositions are part of attempts to create unwanted tensions and issues in a democratic system.”
The island residents are also opposing a circular that seeks to permit to permit the sale and consumption of liquor on the island.
It may be recalled that in 2021 CMP MP Elamaram Kareem had written to the then President Ramnath Kovind to remove him from the post of administrator. Mr. Patel was accused of destroying the religious and cultural identity of the island.
Mr. Patel was accused of banning beef in the name of conservation of livestock.
Mr. Kareem has been opposing the new liquor policy too. He says that selling liquor in five-star hotels and some tourist places may be permitted but to allow the sale of liquor in entire Lakshadweep is hurting people’s religious sentiments.