NEW DELHI: A 20-year-old Lucknow Muslim student on Saturday opted out of the All-India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT) as she did not want to take off her abaya
(loose over-garment worn with a headscarf) in line with the Supreme Court order upholding ban on headscarves and long sleeves during the exam.
“I would rather not take the exam than put my religious sentiments at stake,” said Rehana (name changed), who has been wearing abaya since childhood. She said she was asked to take off her abaya (over garment) and take the exam with her headscarf on.
Rehana said this was not the end of her aspiration to become a doctor. “This would have been my first attempt at AIPMT, but I do not mind wasting a year and appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Combined Pre-Medical Test if the call is a ban on my attire or my thinking. I do not regret taking this stand,” she said.
Rehana, who had taken a year off to prepare for the exam, was not alone. In Thiruvananthapuram, 19-year-old Catholic nun Sr Seba was not allowed to take AIPMT after she refused to remove her head veil and cross attached to it.READ ALSO: SC upholds ban on hijab and long sleeves in pre-medical testAIPMT: Muslims dismayed by SC remark on dress code
The nun, who attended coaching classes for a year for the test, said she was aware of the Supreme Court order.
“But I thought that the school would permit me to use the head veil after frisking and I reached the centre by 8 am. I was subjected to checking at 8.30 and was waiting in the line when the school principal approached me demanding that I remove the veil to write the exam,” Seba told TOI.
She agreed to remove the veil but pleaded that she be allowed to cover her head with a scarf. But Sathyadas, the principal of the school where her examination centre was located, said he understood her religious sentiments but had no choice but to comply with the order.
“I then consulted my mother provincial over the phone. My superiors informed me that I should not remove my veil as it was against our custom. Following this, I came back to convent without writing the exam.”
The principal said they did not allow Seba into the exam hall since she was not ready to undergo frisking. “We were given written guidelines to be followed for the conduct of the examination. She was not ready to allow anybody to even touch her veil.”
Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis of Malankara Catholic Church said the incident was disturbing and raises questions regarding the rights of a citizen.
“We do not wish to rake up a controversy over the issue but it is disturbing to note that the nun was not allowed to wear her religious paraphernalia even though she was ready to undergo security check. What is it that is being targeted — religious symbols or exam malpractices?”
The strict dress code, which barred students from wearing full-sleeved shirts, metallic items and shoes as well, forced five baptized Sikh students in Punjab, Chandigarh and Jaipur to remove their articles of faith before taking the exam.
Three baptized Sikh students were allowed to take the test in Bathinda after they removed their ‘kirpans’ (small swords) and ‘karas’ (iron bangles).
Two female students, Gurpreet Kaur and Harsimrat Kaur, too had to leave their articles of faith behind before taking the exam.
At an exam center in Chandigarh’s Sector-47, Karanbir Singh from Patiala was asked to remove his ‘kara’ and sword before he was allowed to take the test.
The youth’s father, Jarnail Singh, said, “I wanted to lodge a complaint but did not as my son was getting late for the exam. He finally handed over the articles to me.”
The curbs have angered Sikh religious bodies. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee additional secretary D S Bedi said they were fighting a battle for the right to wear religious symbols outside the country and it is worrisome that Sikhs have to face all this here
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh GK said they would challenge the decision of a Jaipur school to not let a baptized Sikh student, Jagjit Singh, enter the AIPMT exam centre until he had taken off his ‘kara’ and ‘kirpan’.