Sri Lanka: Has Hindutva Racism Entered Trinco Hindu College?

Condemning this as a clear racist act Justice Minister Ali Sabri asked how can the principal prevent Fahmaida from wearing Abaya while the court and even human rights groups have allowed through the face-covering need to be avoided in view of the security issue.

by Latheef Farook

The government-owned Trincomalee Sri Shanmuga Hindu Ladies College principal Lingaswari’s refusal to allow a hijab-wearing Muslim teacher, Fathima Fahmida Ranees, to resume her work is not unexpected.

This is because of the presence of anti-Muslim RSSHindutva and its fronts BJP, Shiv Sena, Viswa Hindu Parisad and Bajrang dal in the island with their agendas against Muslims.

Similar issue in the Indian state of Karnataka, triggered by Hindutva fascists in cooperation with school administrations, has been tearing society apart since December. The issue is now being discussed in the Indian parliament.

Here at the Trinco Hindu Ladies College, the principal Lingeswari refused to allow the teacher to resume work, despite a court order and instruction from the education ministry. Fahmida teacher did not go half-naked or in bikini but was wearing hijab, one of the most decent dresses for women in the world.

However the principal obstructedFahmida from resuming her duties,  brought in outsiders to frighten the teacher,  illegally allowed outsiders within the school premises, her neck was squeezed, perhaps,  threatening to kill, instigated teachers and students against the Muslim teacher,  brought students to the street illegally and in violation of covid regulations, made false accusations to enter the hospital, subjected teacher  Fahmida’s fundamental rights to question and denied her religious rights enshrined in the constitution.

Added to this lawlessness was the principal’s address during which she said that this Hindu College is for Tamils and other cultures have no place, exposing her racist mindset, arrogance and lawlessness.  

Image: Students sit outside their school in Kundapura village, Karnataka on Friday after the authorities denied them entry for wearing a hijab.

The irony is that Fahmida was sent out of the hospital even before she recovered whilethe Principal Lingeswari remained in the hospital without any health issues.

Condemning this as a clear racist act Justice Minister Ali Sabri asked how can the principal prevent Fahmaida from wearing Abaya while the court and even human rights group have allowed through a face-covering need to be avoided in view of the security issue. 

In an apparent reference to the education ministry official collaboration with Principal Lingeswari, Trincomalee MP Imran Mahroof said education authorities should try to sort out issues arising between communities instead of aggravating them. In this case, it is rather disappointing to see the attitude of higher education authorities.

Many fair-minded Tamils condemned the treatment meted out to Fahmida teacher. This is a government school where everyone could teach.

For example, Zahira College in Colombo has been a Muslim School that produced some of the highly respected Tamil professionals, intellectuals, journalists and even politicians. This is a shining example of communal harmony and Trinco Hindu College.

Image: Hindu group including teachers, perhaps instigated by the principal,  protesting against Muslim teacher.

Now the question is whether the principal Lingeswari acted alone or there was a force behind her.

Extreme militant Hindus working tirelessly to eliminate Muslims in India entered Sri Lanka, with their agendas against the island’s Muslims during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime.

A top-level delegation led by Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, a senior BJP leader, accompanied by RSS and Shiv Sena members had discussions with the Rajapaksa brothers. According to reports the visit took place without diplomatic protocols or arrangements by New Delhi’s High Commission in Colombo. 

Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad was accompanied by Ram Madhav, RSS representative, Suresh Prabhu, a Shiv Sena leader, Vivek Katju, a former Foreign Secretary, Monika Arora, a BJP lawyer and  Swapon Dasgupta, a senior journalist.

The BJP-led delegation’s Colombo visit took place at the initiative of the RSS representative, Ram Madhav, who organised it through a collaboration of New Delhi-based India Foundation and Colombo-based Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, news reports said.

In fact in October 2014‘Siva Senai’ opened its branch in  Vavuniya. Maravanpulavu Sachithananthan, the chief organizer of ‘Siva Senai’, said that they had the support of Shiv Sena, BJP, VHP, and RSS.   Mumbai’s Shiva Sena leader Sanjay Raut told that his party extends support to the new Lankan outfit. 

In an article in Colombo Telegraph columnist Lakmal Harischandra said ”It is not rocket science to realize that the underlying plans of this Hindu fundamentalist outfit is to create further dissensions among the Muslim and Tamil Hindu communities.

Meanwhile, across the shores in India, preventing hijab-wearing Muslims from entering schools in Karnataka has thrown the spotlight on freedom of religion protected under the Constitution in India. The row over whether educational institutions can impose a strict dress code that could interfere with the rights of students has spilled to other colleges in the state. The issue throws up legal questions on reading the freedom of religion and whether the right to wear a hijab is constitutionally protected.

Indian Union Muslim League Lok Sabha MPs had given adjournment notice to demand a discussion on the  Hijab row in Karnataka while Congress urged the education minister to intervene to ensure the constitutional rights of the students are upheld and the matter is resolved. 

Lashing out at the government, Congress leader in the legislative council B.K. Hariprasad in Karnataka state said, “BJP is fishing in dangerous waters by meddling in Hijab-Saffron row in Udupi district. It shows their sinister plans to create issues out of nothing for petty political gains. BJP is posing risk to students’ education which is already affected by the pandemic.”

Now, it appears, that this Hindutva racism has entered Trinco Hindu ladies College. This is disaster for the two communities. It is time that peace-loving elements in the two communities, Tamils and Muslims, sort out the issue before it explodes to the detriment of the two communities but to the benefit of destructive elements who would exploit the issue to suit their interests. Ends

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