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HomePoliticsCongress govt in Karnataka to 'review' BJP's anti-conversion, hijab ban laws to...

Congress govt in Karnataka to ‘review’ BJP’s anti-conversion, hijab ban laws to ensure ‘social equality’

Congress’s statements come after Amnesty (India) sought ‘priority actions’ from newly-elected govt on anti-conversion, anti-cattle slaughter and Hijab ban laws brought in under Bommai.

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Bengaluru: The newly-formed Congress government in Karnataka has said that it will review all bills and executive orders passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which includes anti-conversion, anti-cattle slaughter and Hijab ban laws, among others.

The Congress was careful not to mention any of these bills or its plans to review them in the run up to the assembly elections, but brought it soon after forming the government under Siddaramaiah on 20 May.

“The govt stands firm on reviewing any bill passed by the previous BJP govt that: affects the image of state, deters investment, does not create employment, is unconstitutional and violates the rights of an individual. We want to build an economically and socially equal Karnataka,” Priyank Kharge, the newly appointed cabinet minister in Karnataka said in a post on twitter.

The Congress, which bagged 135 of the 224 seats in the state, had the consolidated support of several communities, like the Muslims, Dalits and Lingayats, in the assembly elections. Now communities are demanding their due, such as securing key cabinet berths for their leaders as well as doing away with policies that are seen as isolating for the group.

The anti-conversion and anti-cattle slaughter bills had led to several vigilante groups accosting and assaulting anyone suspected of conversion or cow slaughter with impunity. The hijab ban, too, had stirred major controversy. The final verdict by the Supreme Court on the Hijab issue is awaited.

The Congress’s statements come after international human rights advocacy group, Amnesty (India), sought these three ‘priority actions’ from the newly-elected state government.

“Immediately revoke the ban on women wearing hijabs in educational institutions. The ban forces Muslim girls to choose between their rights to freedom of expression and religion, and their right to education, hindering their ability to meaningfully participate in society,” Amnesty said in its post.

“This is an opportunity for the state authorities to fulfill their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. @AIIndia calls on the authorities to demonstrate their commitment by taking these effective and immediate steps to guarantee rights,” it added in a five-part post on twitter.

Reacting to the Congress’s review announcement, Lahar Singh Siroya, senior BJP MP from Karnataka, tweeted Thursday: “What gives @PriyankKharge the confidence to speak the way he does? He still doesn’t have a portfolio. He is not the CM or Dy CM. He is not the President of @INCKarnataka or @INCIndia. Is he the new Super CM of Karnataka?”

Also read: ‘Rivalry’ in Gowda family, desertions weaken JD(S), party loses out even in seats dominated by Vokkaligas

The laws

In January 2022, 12 students from Government Pre-University Girls College in Udupi demanded to wear the Hijab inside classrooms as well. This was rejected by the college authorities as the BJP-led College Development Council (CDC) members and now banned Campus Front of India (CFI) locked horns over the issue.

This led to an order by the Basavaraj Bommai government, banning the display of religious symbols as part of official uniforms. This decision quickly became a focal point for discussions on minority rights, not just in Karnataka but also in other parts of the country.

With students asserting their religious identities, not only Udupi but various cities across Karnataka saw a trend of government-run educational institutions refusing admission to students wearing hijab. This reportedly resulted in a high dropout rate among Muslim girls in the state.

Yashpal Suvarna, the vice-chairman of the CDC who played the role of a catalyst in the entire matter, successfully contested the assembly elections from Udupi this year.

In September last year, the BJP-led government passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, better known as the ‘anti-conversion’ bill.

The Bommai government had reasoned that the intent of the new law was to stop conversion by ‘force, allurement or fraud’ and also to impose heavy penalties, including jail terms of up to 10 years and fines of Rs 1 lakh.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: Siddaramaiah’s oath-taking left out AAP, BRS and others. Congress has new opposition strategy



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