Jaipur- The Subhash Chowk police station in Jaipur , on Monday , witnessed a significant gathering of government school students, who surrounded the premises, raised slogans, and temporarily blocked the road in protest. The students, predominantly from Gangapol Girls School, voiced their disapproval against BJP MLA Baba Balmukund Acharya, accusing him of making objectionable remarks about hijab during a school event. The uproar prompted ACP Subhash Chowk, Dr. Hemant Jakhar, to swiftly respond to the scene and pacify the disgruntled students.
The students arrived at the police station around 9 am, rapidly growing in number. The girls told the police that MLA Balmukund Acharya had visited their school during a program and expressed objectionable views regarding their choice to wear hijab. The girls vehemently declared that such interference with their religious practices was unacceptable, advocating for a secular and unbiased environment within the educational realm. The protest expanded beyond the students, drawing in their family members, who joined the clamor for justice. In an emphatic display of dissent, the girl students staged a sit-in on the road around Subhash Chowk Circle.
By 5 pm, Adarsh Nagar MLA Rafiq Khan and Kishanpol MLA Amin Kagzi intervened, escorting all the protesting girl students away from the site. Subsequently, both MLAs submitted a written complaint at the Subhash Chowk police station, urging the administration to take immediate action. The administration has been given a two-day ultimatum to address the concerns raised during the protest.
MLA Rafeek Khan tried raising this issue in the Rajasthan Assembly but the speaker didn’t allow him and obliterated his statement from the assembly proceedings.
The genesis of the issue lies in the school's annual program attended by Baba Balmukund Acharya. During this event, the MLA raised religious slogans and when some students didnt respond to it, he asked whether they had been told not to speak up. Further, on seeing the Muslim girls in Hijab, he outrightly declared that it would not be allowed in the school, a stance vehemently opposed by the protesting students.
One of the protesting students expressed her perspective, emphasizing the school's role as a house of education and questioning the need for religious slogans. She highlighted the objection raised against their hijab, recounting the authorities' statement that girls would not be allowed to sit in hijab, as it allegedly disrupted the atmosphere. Defiantly, the student asserted their right to wear the hijab, emphasizing its significance in their lives as a matter of pride that they are unwilling to relinquish.
In response to the brewing controversy, MLA Balmukund Acharya defended his actions, asserting that schools have established dress codes. He clarified that his inquiry was directed towards the school principal, questioning the existence of dual dress codes during events such as Republic Day and annual functions.
Acharya insisted that there should be uniformity in dress codes, highlighting the observed dichotomy in the school environment – one with hijab and the other without. In an apparent attempt at reconciliation, Acharya suggested that children might come to school the next day wearing lehenga-chunni and colourful dresses, emphasizing adherence to the established dress code. He maintained that when the school dress code is clear, girls generally do not object, advocating for guidance rather than objections to maintain uniformity.
The MLA said to media, "This protest seems to be orchestrated by a few individuals with political motives. I took the initiative to engage with the girls and had a productive interaction with them. Our conversation touched upon various subjects, including Prime Minister Modi's schemes and their academic pursuits. It's important to clarify that the school does not enforce a dress code during events like Republic Day, Basant Utsav, annual functions, or Independence Day. The perplexity arises when students choose to wear burqa and hijab on such occasions. There are established Madrasas catering specifically to those preferences. My intention was merely to request the school administration to engage with the students and help them comprehend the situation. I would strongly recommend the Chief Minister to consider implementing a uniform dress code across all schools, ensuring that students adhere to their school uniforms for a cohesive and standardized appearance."