I don’t know whether the Hijab has been prescribed by the Quran. Even Muslims are divided in their opinion. Accordingly, some wear the Hijab and some don’t. Really, I don’t care either way.
The High Court of Karnataka decided that the Hijab is not prescribed by the Quran. The Court’s other observation is that schools have uniforms and the Hijab is not part of it. The Sikh turban is apparently prescribed in their religious text and therefore schools are sort of ‘allowed to allow’ it, even though it is not part of the uniform. Questions have come up about the ‘bindi’ or the red dot that women wear on their forehead, the sacred threads worn by men on the body or the wrist, the vivudhi (ash) men wear on the forehead or the cross dangling from necklaces. I don’t know how many of these are mandated by the respective religions, but in all these cases, if it is, then I suppose the religious prescription will transcend and override the uniform requirement.
But I would like to take a step back though, and ask: Why is a uniform necessary for school children?
Several reasons are advanced towards the need for uniforms, the most important of which are a sense of equality, a feeling of belonging and unity, quelling of the innate rebelliousness in children and less distraction of clothes in academics. Many brains far more intelligent and knowledgeable than mine have argued for and against uniforms so I won’t even attempt to go there.
Personally, I believe human beings are always learning something every day of our lives, in fact every hour, every minute. We never stop learning. (Of course, this does not include the humans who think they already know everything.) But for the rest of us, life is a school with no Sundays or holidays and we are its permanent students. So, I keep wondering, when uniforms are so important to us as school children, what happens when we graduate out of school? Why don’t we need uniforms? Why do we, suddenly, stop needing to have the same sense of equality, belonging and all the good things that school uniforms apparently cultivate in us? Or is it that the school uniforms have already worked their magic and we are now filled with all those qualities? When I look around, that seems not to be true. At all. In fact, it seems to me that adults, more than children, need to wear uniforms! Our society is full of inequalities, our sense of belonging is all warped, we are more quarrelsome and argumentative than children and we are in a perennial state of distraction, division and mental imbalance.
What purpose, then, have our school uniforms achieved?
So, maybe, that is the actual question we need to ask ourselves. Why the heck are we making such a fuss about the sanctity of school uniforms when they really don’t seem to make a darn difference in the long run?
Instead, let our children wear whatever they want, let them express themselves through their clothes. Why do we want our children to be uniform and look the same? Let them be different, unique and colorful. Let them look and think differently. Let us acknowledge and celebrate our differences instead of trying to suppress them. The school should be a joyous, chaotic and rebellious experience that values and nurtures thinking out of the box. It should not be a military cantonment of obedience and discipline. Let’s set our children free. Who knows? Maybe they will turn into better adults than we are!
As for the hijab issue, remove the uniforms from the mix and you remove the basic issue. Na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri. No bamboo, no flute!
Alas, if only it were that easy!