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Hijab Politics in India as Revolution Rages in Iran | UnBreak the News with Prema Sridevi | Ep:100

Tens of thousands of women are risking their lives in Iran to keep the anti-hijab protests alive but in India, the Hijab debate has been turned into a communal Hindu vs Muslim issue by many. Here’s the latest episode of UnBreak the News with Prema Sridevi!

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Indian television debates hit their lowest point recently when a news channel linked hijab-supporting panellists with the terrorist group - Al Qaeda. The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) pulled up the Hindi channel and its anchor and imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees on the broadcaster. 

Tens of thousands of women are risking their lives in Iran to keep the anti-hijab protests alive. The fearless women who have given birth to a revolution against the country’s “morality police” are facing bullets, batons and arrests over the anti-hijab protests. The three words - women, life, freedom have become a rallying cry for people in Iran and beyond who are fighting for justice for Mahsa Amini, who was killed in custody by the morality police. 

But in India, the Hijab debate has been turned into a communal Hindu vs Muslim issue by many. TV channels have made a mockery of this sensitive issue, and politicians have resorted to hijab politics. Prema Sridevi UnBreaks this News for you!

(Produced below are the abridged version of the transcripts of the video explainer from Episode: 100 | UnBreak the News with Prema Sridevi | Title: Hijab Politics in India as Revolution Rages in Iran)

Indian television debates hit their lowest point recently when a news channel linked hijab-supporting panellists with the terrorist group - Al Qaeda. The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) pulled up the Hindi channel and its anchor and imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees on the broadcaster.

Tens of thousands of women are risking their lives in Iran to keep the anti-hijab protests alive. The fearless women who have given birth to a revolution against the country’s “morality police” are facing bullets, batons and arrests over the anti-hijab protests. The three words - women, life, freedom have become a rallying cry for people in Iran and beyond who are fighting for justice for Mahsa Amini, who was killed in custody by the morality police.

But in India, the Hijab debate has been turned into a communal Hindu vs Muslim issue by many. TV channels have made a mockery of this sensitive issue, and politicians have resorted to hijab politics. Let’s UnBreak this News!

In a debate shown on News 18 India in the month of April, the tv channel used the terms - "Hijabi Gang", "Hijabwali Gazwa Gang", and the "Zawahiri Gang" to describe the students who were protesting in support of hijab. The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) denounced both the channel and the anchor for turning such a sensitive issue into a communal one. 

In a statement, the NBDSA said: "NBDSA strongly deprecated the tendency of the broadcaster to associate those panellists who were in favour of wearing hijab by the students with Zawahiri and labelling them as 'Zawahiri gang member', 'Zawahiri's ambassador', 'Zawahiri is your god, you are his fan'. NBDSA also did not find any justification in linking those panellists or persons who were supporting Hijab with Al Qaeda by airing tickers stating '#AlqaedaGangExposed', 'Hijab ka fata poster, nikla Al Qaeda, 'Al Zawahiri found behind the hijab', and 'Alqaeda has planned the hijab controversy'..."

The NBDSA imposed a fine of 50000 rupees on the channel and admonished the broadcaster for conducting such a debate. But this is not the first time Indian news channels have taken the hijab debate too far. Hijab debates on many channels usually is an exercise to pit Hindus against Muslims. The same channel was again seen conducting a similar debate where the Hindu and Muslim panellists on the show were demeaning and shouting at each other. In India, many pro and anti-Hijab lobbies have given communal overtones to the Hijab issue and have turned hijab into a divisive issue to create a rift between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities.

In Telangana, recently, a controversy erupted over a college asking Hindu women to remove their mangalsutra and bangles before entering the exam centre. In this case, some media channels were seen highlighting why hijab-clad women were not asked to remove their veils before entering the examination centre.

The Hijab controversy has been raging in India for months. The Supreme Court this month failed to deliver a verdict on whether Muslim students can sport a Hijab in educational institutions, as judges hearing the case had different views. The judges have requested the Chief Justice of India to recommend the matter to a larger bench. But for months, politicians in India have been polarising people in the name of hijab.

"We have given you Pakistan, right? You can wear a Hijab or wear whatever you want. What was the intention behind giving you Pakistan? They eat our country's food. They drink our country's water, and then they carry out anti-national activities. Even Madarasa's and Urdu schools should be shut if you ask me. If you want to learn, learn Kannada. Otherwise, you go to Pakistan. Why are you here?" said Karnataka BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatna stirring a hornet's nest early this year.

On the other hand, a few days ago, AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi was spotted saying, "If not in my lifetime, then after my death, one day a hijab-clad woman will be the Prime Minister of our country. Inshallah! This will happen... You are asking us why are you people wearing a hijab. You are saying do not wear a hijab. If not a hijab, then what should be worn… Bikini?"

While communal politics over hijab continues in India, back in Iran, tens of thousands of women continue to fight against the morality police in their country. The three words - women, life and freedom, have become synonymous with the protests. The women have been protesting since the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was in the custody of Iran's morality police. She was arrested for not wearing a Hijab in accordance with government standards. The protesting women have been braving bullets, batons and arrests.

The protests sparked by the brave women in Iran are spreading like wildfire worldwide. It's uniting people. It's breaking stereotypes. Iran's uprising is soon turning into a global revolution. Inspired by the protests, world-over, women are giving up their Hijabs. Protests are being held in many parts of the world. Candlelight vigils are being carried out in remembrance of the women who lost their lives to the morality police. Women from different countries are showing solidarity with the movement by cutting off the locks of their hair, but in India, some elements continue to use the Iran uprising to run their own divisive agendas.

Mahsa Amini's death has given rise to a revolution which is led and inspired by women who want change. This revolution has united people across countries, ethnicities and generations. But the grotesque nature of discourse on the topic of the Hijab in India has narrowed the scope for any meaningful dialogue on the subject. While Iranian women brave extraordinary risks to keep the flame of the revolution alive, the polarising debate back in India threatens to disrupt our social fabric. The debate is on in India on whether hijab should be seen as a matter of personal choice or as a religious compulsion. Sadly, this discourse has been hijacked by many politicians and media persons who are using hijab politics and the Iranian revolution to spew hatred against one another.