‘They didn’t come as humans’: Karnataka play insults hijabi women

Udupi: Characters in a Yakshagana play during the Karkala Utsav in Karnataka’s Udupi passed derogatory comments on Muslim women who wear hijabs.

In a video that surfaced on Twitter, a character can be heard saying that Muslim women “cannot be considered humans” as they wear a “black cloak”, referring to the hijab.

Yakshagana is a folk performance of Karnataka where the artists perform theatre plays in elaborate costumes. The dialogues are often based on relevant social issues. On one of the days of the 10-day Karkala festival, a play was held where characters addressed the recent hijab ban in the state while mocking hijab-wearing women.

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“They did not arrive as humans, they came shrouded in a thick, black cloak,” says one of the characters. Another replies that they donned saffron shawls in a protest against them.

“Today, the court’s judgment must have quashed it, no one should wear them. Where they (Muslim women) go, whom they meet- must be investigated by the intelligence department,” adds the character.

Another character says that the “activists” wore saffron shawls in a protest and created riots before the court passed its judgment. “If we hadn’t donned our shawls, the case wouldn’t have gotten this wild,” a character says proudly.

A video of this performance uploaded on Twitter brought to light how often Muslims are used as subject matter in Yakshagana plays.

“Time and again they are mocking Muslims in Yakshagana, years ago it was against Haji cherkala abdulla and Sania Mirza, today its in favour of govt decision these people have taken religion into play,” a Twitter user pointed out.

The hijab row:

The hijab controversy has been around since January, after students of a pre-university college in Karnataka’s Udupi were prohibited from wearing headscarves (hijab), as part of their religious obligation, in the college premises.

The high court pronounced its judgment on the row upholding the hijab ban of the Bharatiya Janata party-led government and said that wearing of hijab is not an essential religious practice, following which protests broke out in various parts of Karnataka.

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