Tabassum Shaik, the Karnataka state board exam topper, expressed, “I didn’t want to give up hijab; it is a part of my identity. It was an injustice.”
Tabassum Shaik, a student from NMKRV PU College in Bengaluru and the daughter of a hardware engineer and a homemaker, achieved the top position in the Arts stream with a score of 593 out of 600, earning a remarkable 98.83%.
During an interview with an India Today journalist, Tabassum shared, “It was a period of uncertainty. I felt very confused and depressed because hijab is an integral part of my identity and my religion. I have been wearing hijab since I was five, so it was very difficult for me to give it up, and I didn’t want to.”
She further expressed, “It’s a secular country, and I should be allowed to wear my hijab and pursue my education. So, it felt very unfair and unjust.”
“When the verdict was announced, my parents encouraged me to comply with the orders. I didn’t attend college for two weeks because I was very confused about what I should do. However, my parents said that if I acquired an education, I could reach a position where I could prevent such injustices from happening in the future. That became my main motive for continuing to attend college,” Tabassum shared with India Today.
Tabassum, who plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, stated to The Hindu, “I am very interested in subjects like Sociology, Political Science, and Economics. I am also curious about psychology, which is why I opted for the Arts stream in PU.”
Muslim students in Karnataka have been protesting against the ban on hijab in educational institutions, asserting that it violates their religious freedom, as guaranteed under India’s constitution.
Muslim students, activists, and Opposition leaders across the country have alleged that these attacks on Muslim symbols and practices are part of a larger Hindutva agenda to impose majoritarian values on India’s 200 million Muslims.
In October last year, the Supreme Court of India delivered a split verdict on petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court’s March 15, 2022 verdict, which dismissed pleas filed by Muslim girls studying in pre-university colleges in Udupi seeking the right to wear hijab in classrooms.
Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the 26 appeals against the Karnataka High Court judgment, which held that hijab was not an essential practice of Islam and allowed the ban on wearing headscarves in educational institutions in the State. Expressing a different opinion, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia set aside the Karnataka High Court judgment and held that the entire concept of essential religious practice was not essential to the dispute.