DPS Abaya Row : Kashmir Is Not France, Says Govt

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SRINAGAR: The day after students of Delhi Public School (DPS) Srinagar staged protest against school management for disallowing a teacher wearing Abaya inside classroom, the State Government on Saturday threw its weight behind the teacher saying, “Jammu and Kashmir is no France where veil is banned but a secular and multi-cultured State”.

“We are not France… we have to accommodate each other. It (banning Abaya) cannot be done in a State (which is Muslim majority) like Jammu and Kashmir,” Education Minister and Chief Spokesman of the government, Nayeem Akhtar, said in the Legislative Assembly here. 

Earlier, Independent MLA from Langate, Engineer Abdul Rashid had raised the issue in the Assembly.

Speaking during Zero Hour, Rashid raised the issue of ban on wearing Abhaya by a female staffer of DPS.

Large number of students of elite Delhi Public School Srinagar Friday had boycotted their classes and staged a daylong protest against the school authorities after a female teacher was allegedly forced to resign when she remained adamant on entering classrooms in Abaya.

The controversy, as per the students, erupted when the school authorities asked the female teacher, who had been coming to school in Abaya, the loose Arab style outer-garment for last few months, to select either of the two: her dress code or job at DPS.

Some of the protesting students accused the school authorities of resorting to what they termed as undue interference in their religious beliefs.

Even though the school teachers, Kashmir Observer talked to confirmed the incident, they said it was being blown out of proportions.

A teacher who spoke in support of the school authorities said her colleague was not fired from the job but simply asked to select of the two choices given to her.

“The teacher was not fired on grounds of wearing Abaya. She was only asked not to wear Abaya in the classroom… There needs to be uniformity in dressing. We need to understand the nuances of the issue before blaming someone,” the teacher said “even Western style dresses, like T shirt and jeans are not allowed inside classrooms.”

“She(teacher) left the job only because she was unwilling to attend classroom without Abaya, so it was her free will and not the decision of the school authorities,” some staff members added.

The protesting students said they demanded apology from the principal and re-induction of the “sacked teacher.” 

“It (DPS) is a private school, and we will get truth of it (the Abhaya issue),” Akhtar told the house.

“We live in a country which has a multi-cultural, multi-religious setup,” he said, “We have secular fabric. No force on any such issue will be accepted; we are not France.”

He maintained that the DPS Management “is sensitive to this issue”. “The government will raise the issue with the DPS Society.”

Pertinent to mention here, France a member of European Union has banned  Abhaya and all other religious symbols including Christian Cross and Jewish skull cap in government offices and educational institutions. 

The lady teacher who worked in DPS for three months resigned from the job. However, DPS students on Friday boycotted classes and exams and demanded apology from the DPS management and recall of the teacher.

But the Principal of the DPS told the students that the school “was following the rule”. The law of the school says “that no female teacher can wear Abhaya inside the classroom during working hours”.

Meanwhile, Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani condemned the ‘sacking’ of the teacher by DPS management over wearing Abaya and said the management of the school should tender unconditional apology. He said that Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state and the consequences of objecting to Islamic dress code here could be grave.

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