Mangaluru: Hijabi Student, Booked for Altercation at College, Claims She is Being ‘Framed’

Mangaluru: Hiba Sheik, the hijab-wearing college student who was booked by the Mangaluru police on March 7, along with six other Muslim students, for allegedly abusing, threatening and attacking a group of students affiliated with right-wing student organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at the gates of her college on March 4, has claimed that the complainant who filed the first information report (FIR) was not present at altercation at the college that day.

The complainant, Kavana Shetty, is also affiliated with the ABVP.

“Kavana was not present at the college gates on March 4. So how can she file an FIR against us, saying that we attacked her?” Sheik told The Wire.

The altercation between Hiba and her friends and a crowd of ABVP-affiliated students had taken place at the gates of Dayanand Pai-Sathish Pai Government First Grade College at Car Street in Mangaluru. It was recorded on camera and a video of Sheik confronting the group of ABVP-affiliated students has since gone viral.

In her FIR, registered against four girls and three boys at Mangaluru North Police Station on March 7, Shetty alleged that Sheik and the six other Muslim students had issued threats to her and her companions at the college gates on March 4 after the hijab-wearing students were stopped from taking a college exam on March 3. 

According to an interim order passed by the Karnataka high court, no religious attire can be worn on the premises of government schools and colleges until it passes judgment in the case filed by Muslim students against the Karnataka government.

Also read: Karnataka: Muslim Women Students Face Case, Suspension for Wearing Hijab, Protesting

According to Shetty’s FIR, Sheik and six other Muslim students stood at the college gates abused Shetty and her friends as they entered the college. The FIR alleges that Sheik said, “Yesterday, you complained against us and did not allow us to write the exam. You people walk on our streets, right? We will see you there. Is this your father’s college? We also pay college fees and we will come to college.”

Shetty added in her FIR that Sheik and her friends had even threatened fellow student Sai Sandesh on social media, saying, “In Mangaluru, Sandesh’s dead body will fall into a drain.”

Raghavendra, a police officer at the Bunder police station, confirmed to The Wire that an FIR had been filed against Sheik and six others for using derogatory language. He said that the video of the altercation was enough proof to book the seven Muslim students.

The FIR was registered under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace).

Hiba Sheik’s FIR

Shetty’s FIR, however, contradicts the FIR filed by Sheik on March 4, based on which the police had booked 19 ABVP-affiliated students for allegedly stopping hijab-wearing students from taking a college exam on March 3.

The 19 students were booked on March 4 itself, after the police asked Sheik whether the college principal had given the Muslim girls permission to write the exam while wearing their hijabs and whether any lecturers had been present when the 19 students prevented the girls from writing the exam. Sheik answered both these questions in the affirmative.

Sandesh, mentioned above, was among these 19 students and according to Sheik’s FIR, videographed the girls with his phone while they were writing the exam, snatched their answer sheets from them and told the girls to leave because they were not permitted to take the examination while wearing their hijabs.

Sheik’s FIR also alleged that the ABVP-affiliated students abused them, called them ‘terrorists’ and ‘anti-national’ and also made defamatory remarks about Sheik’s religion and tried to attack her physically. 

Sheik, a second-year of the college, claimed that hijab-wearing first year students of the college had received written permission from the principal to take their internal exams. These girls were not to sit in the main examination hall, but separately in the library. 

“As for the second year students, although the principal did not give us permission slips, he did allow us to take our exams after instructing us to cover our heads with the dupattas that are part of our uniform rather than with our hijabs,” Sheik told The Wire.

When Hiba learned that she and her six companions had been booked by the police, she tweeted that they had been “framed”.

In the video that accompanied her tweet, Sheik, calling the actions of the 19 students a “pre-planned conspiracy”, says that the other group would have filed a complaint against the Muslim students on the same day as Sheik filed her FIR if “we (Sheik and her friends) were guilty”. In the video, she also names Sandesh and claims that the police didn’t register the case under “harassment charges” as she had intended.

“Who is Sai Sandesh to tell us to go out?” Sheik asked, speaking to The Wire. “He is a student like us. What authority does he hold to go against the college principal? Our principal is a very calm man, he is being pressured and we can clearly see that.”

She also said that her college principal and staff were “very supportive otherwise” and alleged that “this entire situation has been created by the ABVP and their gang”.

“Although mobile phones are not allowed inside the library, Sai Sandesh came into the library where our juniors were seated and took their videos without their consent. The next day, they called the police and threatened my college mates, saying that they would ‘ruin our lives’,” Sheik alleged.

Sheik also alleged that the hijab-wearing students of her college have been facing discrimination at the hands of the college peon. “She tells us not to eat or drink in the college. We were told that separate taps must be assigned for us so we don’t interact with others,” she said.

She also told The Wire that she was disappointed that nobody stood up to the bullying of the ABVP-affiliated students. “I understand their fear, but I am not afraid. I will not back down,” she said.

The viral video

The video taken of the altercation at the college gates on March 4 shows a group of ABVP-affiliated students blocking Sheik’s way into the college while calling her ‘anti-national’ and a ‘terrorist’. Sheik is heard asking in response, “Is this your dad’s college? We also pay fees and come here.” 

The altercation took place in the presence of police personnel who, together with staff from the college, eventually intervened and ended it.

When the video went viral, Sheik was praised on social media for her brave response to the crowd of ABVP-affiliated students. She was compared with Muskan Khan, the hijab-wearing Muslim girl who on February 8, shouted ‘Allahhu Akbar when a mob heckled her as she was on way to college in Mandya town.

Mohammed Irshad is an independent journalist. He tweets at @shaad_bajpe.