‘Hashtags, PFI link, political patronage’: The inside story of ‘Hijab’ controversy

| Updated: 12 February, 2022 6:11 pm IST

In the wake of simmering ‘hijab’ controversy, which kicked off in Karnataka, a thread exposing the alleged conspiracy behind it has gone viral on Twitter. A verified Twitter user, Vijay Patel, put out several tweets in a thread which alleges that the student wing of a radical outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) orchestrated the entire episode.

The ‘hijab’ controversy had started in Government Pre University college in Udupi where six Muslim girls were barred from entering their classrooms because they were wearing hijab. They proclaimed that wearing hijab is a part of their faith and it is their right to wear whatever they wish to.

These girls did not use to wear ‘hijab’ in the classrooms before the recent uproar and adhered to the college’s ‘dress code’. In fact, the ruckus erupted when suddenly they started insisting on wearing hijabs in the classrooms.

Later, the Campus Front of India (CFI) threw its weight behind these girls as the issue snowballed into a huge controversy and spread in other colleges of the state. However, in an interview, these girls claimed that they now association with the CFI before the controversy and only sought their assistance after they were denied entry in the classrooms because of ‘hijab’.

The tweets posted by Vijay Patel seemingly nullify the claims made by these girls, and also shed light on the background of the controversy.

Through his tweets it appears that at least four of these girls had been associated with the PFI and CFI before the ‘hijab’ controversy erupted. These 4 girls – Aliya Assadi, Ayesha, Muskaan Zainaab and Almas AH – had opened their Twitter accounts in October or November 2021. This was following the membership drive undertaken by the CFI in the colleges including Udupi.

Since opening their Twitter accounts, they have been tweeting the things related to the ideology of the CFI. Most of their tweets are allegedly copy pasted from the material provided to them. They have been actively the hashtags pertaining to the PFI and the CFI campaigns on social media. They have also posted on the issues which were undertaken by the CFI. Hence, their assertion that they were not connected with the CFI before the ‘hijab’ row kicked up seems spurious.

Combined with the fact that they suddenly started insisting on wearing ‘hijab’ in their classrooms from December 27th, the entire episode seems staged. Before December 27th 2021, all of them were adhering to the ‘dress’ prescribed by the Development Monitoring Committee (DMC) of the college.

Since then there have been many reported cases of violence in various Karnataka colleges during protests by students.

On Friday, the BJP MLA from Udupi Raghupathi Bhat said that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) should probe the link between hijab protests and the CFI.

“How did television channels in Pakistan get this information about protests? These girls were attending classes normally till October-November. Since November, when they came in contact with the CFI, they have become active on Twitter. They started tweeting certain views, like building a temple on Babri masjid land is illegal,” he said. “They tweeted ‘We will build masjid there’. They tweeted about Azaan and how it’s not a noise issue. We have some input from the locals on how these girls were trained by PFI and how their legal case is being funded,” Bhat added

Karnataka’s Education Minister BC Nagesh has also claimed that the PFI and the CFI are behind the ‘hijab’ protests. “We have requested the police to investigate if Campus Front of India (CFI) or PFI is behind this (protests). They are not allowing these girls to come to the mainstream. They started from Udupi and now have started to spread it to the whole state. After investigation things will be taken into consideration and the Chief Minister and the state home department will look into it,” he said.

During an interaction with the New Indian, Vijay Patel, stated that he had been researching about the PFI and its student wing CFI when this controversy started. Hence, he decided to dig deep and started looking out for the social media accounts of these girls. After scouring through their tweets, he found a consistent pattern and also discovered their links with the CFI.

“These are just 17-18 year old girls. The radical organisations like the PFI and the CFI are brainwashing them and using them as pawns to further their ideological goals,” he says.

“Some of the tweets of these girls are really radical and promote violence. Most of these tweets were given to them by the CFI to post on their social media organisations. It seems clear that this entire ‘hijab’ episode was kicked up by them at the behest of the CFI. Even now, these radical outfits are lending them administrative and moral support to prolong this controversy. The state government must look into it, order a probe and ban these radical organisations for poisoning the minds of students. Do we want our children to be radicalised and brainwashed?” he added.

His another thread reveals that one of the lawyers, Devadatt Kamat, who has represented these girls in Karnataka High Court is officially a member of the Congress party. Recently, he was appointed as a chairman of the Congress legal coordination committee for the UP election.

In fact, a host of Congress leaders – Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah, to name a few – have publicly supported Muslim girls on the ‘hijab’ row.

An embattled Congress clearly doesn’t want Muslim votes to drift away from the party, especially in Karnataka where PFI has gained immense support among the minority community.

When asked whether this controversy will have any impact on the outcome of the assembly elections in five states, he says, “Some people think that because of this controversy there will be a counter polarisation of Hindus in favour of the Bhartiya Janata Party. But I don’t think so. I can’t predict the outcome of elections, but Hindus are not totally united. There are many parties which hanker for votes of a particular caste – Jats or Yadavs – and along with that, they want Muslim votes. That’s enough for them to sail through,” he concluded.

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