Protests in Karnataka over students being denied the right to wear hijab were highlighted on Thursday by Manchester United footballer Paul Pogba, who shared an Instagram story: “Hindutva crowds continue to harass Muslim girls wearing hijab to the university in India”.
Pogba, a French national whose mother is Muslim and who practiced Islam in 2019, shared a 58-second reel originally posted by London-based _islamismydeen_ Instagram handle.
The clip features a huge crowd of guys and men wearing (or waving) saffron scarves surrounding a small group of young girls wearing hijabs. The crowd, numbering at least a few dozen male individuals, can be heard screaming and singing as the dust rises from the scuffle.
A few other men appear to be holding hands to form a protective barrier around the girls, and only two police officers appear to be seen.
The clip then shows a young woman, presumably a schoolteacher, gingerly unlocking a classroom door, after which dozens of boys wrap themselves in more saffron scarves and a cheering storm rushes in.
The third part shows even more boys – appearing to be hundreds by then – waving saffron flags and dancing and cheering as they walk down a street.
It’s unclear when and where each of the clips was shot.
Pogba is not the first international figure to draw attention to the hijab protests; Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai said on Wednesday that it is abhorrent not to let girls go to school in hijabs.
Within the country, a storm of voices has emerged in support of (and against) both parties, with Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra among others to speak out.
On Tuesday, the situation at a university in the Mandya district escalated after male students harassed and yelled at a Muslim girl ‘Jai Shri Rami† she cried “Allah hu Akbarto the attackers.
A day earlier, two men were arrested in Kundapur for carrying weapons near protesting students.
Protests against the requirement to wear hijabs – which officials say can be worn in class but not during classes – have been sparked by at least one right-wing fringe group – the Hindu Jagrana Vedike.
The controversy over Muslim students not being allowed to wear the hijab started last month after six girls from Udupi district in Karnataka expressed concerns. Since then, it has become a major case, with the state Supreme Court hearing a petition and also approaching the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court will resume the case Monday, but has advised (in a controversial statement) students not to wear “religious clothing” for the sake of “peace and tranquility”.