Indian judges given enhanced security after death threat over hijab verdict

Government will provide them with Y-category security that entails eight armed guards

Students demonstrate in Chennai against Karnataka's high court decision to uphold a local ban on the hijab in classrooms. AFP
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Three judges of India's Karnataka High Court, including its chief justice, will be given enhanced security cover after they received death threats over their decision to ban the hijab in educational institutions.

The state government will provide Y-category security that entails eight armed guards to Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and judges Krishna S Dixit and J M Khazi after the police received a complaint from a local lawyer last week.

The police filed a criminal case and began an investigation into the lawyer’s claim of a purported video on social media that showed unknown men issuing death threats to the judges.

Last week, a three-judge bench, led by Justice Awasthi, ruled the traditional Muslim headscarf was not an essential part of Islamic practice and dismissed petitions filed by Muslim students challenging a government ban on the wearing of the headscarves in educational institutions.

The students had petitioned the court arguing that wearing the hijab was a right guaranteed by the country's secular constitution.

The Karnataka state arm of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party had backed the verdict that has been challenged in India's top court by Muslim students.

The ban and subsequent court ruling have sparked outrage and anger among India’s Muslim community, whose members believe the ruling was a direct attack on their religion.

Several Muslim-dominated regions in the southern state shut down their businesses for a day in protest against the court ruling.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday said “antinational forces posed a challenge to the nation's system of law and order”.

“This is an alarming sign for democracy and we should ensure that these kinds of antinational forces don’t grow,” Mr Bommai told local reporters in the state capital of Bengaluru. "The country’s law and order are in place because of the judiciary."

Police in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state arrested two people associated with the local Thowheed Jamath, a puritanical Islamic organisation, in connection with the alleged death threats.

It was not confirmed whether the two arrested men were the same people in the alleged death threat video.

Police said the group organised protests against the hijab verdict in which some leaders made inflammatory speeches, including one where they reminded the judges about the murder of a judicial officer in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

Additional Sessions Judge Uttam Anand was killed last year after a vehicle knocked him down while he was on a morning walk.

It was alleged that the judge was killed over cases related to the mafia in the state.

Updated: March 21, 2022, 2:12 PM