On Wednesday, August 30th, 2023, the administrators of a private school, who had been charged with compelling female students to wear Islamic headscarves, were granted bail by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. While granting bail to the accused, the High Court said that Hindu, and Jain girls shall not be forced to wear hijab anywhere in the school premises.
The three accused include school staffers Afsha Sheikh, Anas Atahar, and Rustam Ali. The controversy is related to the Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School in Damoh, Madhya Pradesh.
The complaint was lodged by the parents of three students after a photograph displaying non-Muslim students of the school wearing hijab caused protests from the Hindu community. The school tried to duck the issue by issuing a clarification that it was a headscarf and not a hijab. The school also claimed that it was part of the uniform. However, the issue gained significant attention, with the Home Minister calling for an investigation and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan criticizing the school.
Justice Dinesh Kumar Paliwal, presiding as the sole judge on the bench, granted bail to Asfa Sheikh, Anas Athar, and Rustom Ali, subject to a personal bond of ₹50,000.
According to reports, the court said in its order, “Applicants shall not repeat commission of the offense in which they are being released on bail. They shall not be prevented from wearing the essentials of their own religion as such wearing a sacred thread (kalawa) and putting tilak on the forehead. They shall not compel the students of other religion to read/study any material or language which has not been prescribed or approved by the Madhya Pradesh Education Board.”
The court added, “Girl students of other religions i.e. Hindu and Jain etc. shall not be compelled to wear a head scarf (Hijab) anywhere in the school premises or in the classrooms. It is directed that they shall also abide by all the conditions enumerated.”
Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School in Damoh district, Madhya Pradesh, became embroiled in a significant controversy when allegations emerged that the school was compelling students to wear hijabs. The claims surfaced after an advertisement for the school, published on May 31, showcased accomplished students, including Hindu and Jain girls, wearing hijabs.
Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School is a private English-medium institution situated in ward number 4 of the Futera neighborhood in Damoh. The posters featuring the names of exceptional students, both boys and girls, gained traction on social media. Among the eighteen students, four girls from the Jain and Hindu communities were depicted wearing hijabs.
In their complaint, the students also alleged that some of the teachers in the school forced them to recite the Quran. The students leveled the allegations of the imposition of restrictions on Hindu religious practices, compulsory Urdu subjects, and the recitation of poet Mohammad Iqbal’s ‘Lab pe aati hai dua’.
On June 7, the police registered a case against 11 members of the school management committee, charging them under IPC sections 295 (pertaining to damaging or defiling objects considered sacred by certain groups), 506 (related to criminal intimidation), 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), as well as relevant provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.
Earlier, the affiliation of Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School of Damoh was suspended for non-compliance with Madhya Pradesh Secondary and Higher Secondary Schools Recognition Rules 2017 and amended rules 2020.