New uniform in Lakshadweep schools: Congress warns of intense protest over missing hijab

The circular specified that the new pattern of stitched school uniforms included a belt, tie, etc, but it was mum on hijab/scarves for girls.

BySouth First Desk

Published Aug 12, 2023 | 1:43 PMUpdatedAug 12, 2023 | 1:43 PM

New uniform pattern for schools in Lakshadweep

After the local MP and Nationalist Congress Party leader Mohammed Faizal, the Congress has strongly condemned the Lakshadweep administration’s move to introduce a new pattern of uniforms in schools in the Union Territory without taking into account local sensitivities.

The party has warned of intense protests, including mass class boycott of classes by students.

Lakshadweep Congress leader and ex-MP Hamdullah Sayeed alleged on Friday, 11 August, that the new dress code directive — which is silent on hijabs or scarves for girl students — amounted to destroying the intrinsic culture and lifestyle of islanders in the Muslim-dominated archipelago.

Muslims account for almost 96 percent of the estimated 69,000 population of the archipelago, which lies 200 km to 440 km of the Kerala coast in the Arabian sea.

Related: Lakshadweep administration introduces school uniform for students

‘BJP implementing anti-people policies’

The BJP-led Union government and the Lakshadweep administration were continuously attempting to implement anti-people policies that were totally against the culture and ethos of the Muslim islanders, Sayeed charged.

The recent order issued by the Education Department, introducing a new uniform code, was only the latest in a series of such policies and would not be accepted, Sayeed said.

“We will not allow any such directive that will destroy the culture and existing lifestyle of Lakshadweep. Such impositions are part of attempts to create unwanted tensions and issues in a democratic system,” the ex-MP told PTI.

Making it clear that the Congress party would launch a series of democratic agitations against the move, he said school students would boycott classes to register their protest against it.

The people of the archipelago have been at odds with the Union Territory’s administration ever since the appointment of Praful Khoda Patel as administrator.

A Gujarat politician who is said to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Patel was appointed administrator in December 2020. He is the first politician to be appointed to a post that is usually held by IAS officers.

Related: Travel woes of mostly Muslim Lakshadweep natives in Kerala

Protest against liquor outlets

The leader also said the Congress would also intensify its protests against the Lakshadweep administration’s recent move to permit liquor outlets in the archipelago.

The party recently organised a mass protest march on various islands against the controversial move.

A draft of the proposed Excise Regulation Bill was published by the Lakshadweep administration on 3 August seeking suggestions from the public.

The Bill, which will permit the sale and consumption of liquor in the archipelago, has drawn widespread criticism from various quarters.

Related: Discontent brews as Lakshadweep plans to allow sale of alcohol

‘Resist the imposition’

Meanwhile, Lakshadweep MP and NCP leader Mohammed Faizal also indicated that protests would be intensified against the draft liquor policy and the new uniform.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Faizal urged the people of the islands, especially the parents’ community, to resist any move by the administration to impose a hijab ban in schools.

“There is no mention of scarf or hijab. This is a violation of a person’s Constitutional right, Today, all students defied the order and attended classes wearing scarves/hijabs,” the lawmaker had told South First on Friday.

The MP, too, noted that the circular came close on the heels of a draft Bill allowing the production and sale of alcoholic beverages in Lakshadweep. The administration is insensitive towards the traditions and customs followed on the island for generations,” he alleged.

Terming the imposition of the new liquor policy and the uniform code as a violation of fundamental rights, he charged that the administration has pushed the islanders into an unprecedented crisis that they have never experienced before.

Each law is imposed in such a way that it roots out the customs, religious beliefs, eating habits, and dressing patterns that have been followed by the islanders for ages, he said.

Noting that it is important to protect the heritage and tradition of the archipelago, Faizal urged everyone to stand united in the fight to protect it.

Also read: Lakshadweep among top 10 in Social Progress Index 

New pattern of uniform

The Lakshadweep administration has laid down norms for “stitched” uniforms for school students,. The uniforms would be applicable for the current academic year, the Union Territory’s Department of Education said in a circular issued to school principals and headmasters on 10 August.

While the circular specified that the new pattern of stitched school uniforms included a belt, tie, socks/stockings, etc, it was mum on hijab or scarves for girls.

“Wearing items other than prescribed uniform pattern will affect the concept of uniformity among school children. To maintain discipline and uniform dress code in schools are the responsibility of principals and heads of schools,” the circular said.

“Non-compliance with these instructions will be viewed seriously,” it added.

As per the new directive, boys up to the fifth standard should wear a half-pant (check design) and a sky blue half-sleeve shirt. Girls in the same group have been prescribed a skirt (check design fabric) and a sky-blue half-sleeve shirt.

Similarly, boys studying in classes 6 to 12 have been directed to wear navy blue colour full pants and sky blue half-sleeve shirts. Girls in the same classes should wear navy blue divider skirts and sky blue half-sleeve shirts.

(With PTI inputs)