Congress will lift hijab ban, bring back 2B reservation: Kaneez Fatima, K’taka’s only Muslim woman MLAtext_fields
Bengaluru: The Congress will remove the “hijab ban and bring back the 2B reservation for Muslims immediately after forming the government”, Congress's Kaneez Fatima, the only Muslim woman MLA in Karnataka’s 224-member assembly has claimed. The hijabi Muslim woman has now become a popular face in Karnataka politics.
After her husband, Qamar ul Islam, a six-time MLA and a two-time cabinet minister passed away, Kaneez hesitantly agreed to contest the elections when asked by the party, from Gulbarga North constituency, the seat that her late husband had held for three decades. She won by a margin of nearly 6,000 votes.
With fierce competition, Kaneez had to compete with nine candidates from within the Muslim community, including those from the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and multiple independent candidates, besides the BJP that campaigned aggressively in the region. She managed to defeat BJP’s Chandrakanth Patil, a Lingayat leader.
“In the very first cabinet meeting, we will pass resolutions removing the hijab ban and bringing back the 2B reservation. I am confident,” she told The Quint.
Kaneez has been at the forefront of the protest against the controversial hijab ban in the state imposed by the BJP government. She has also been active during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and led the sit-ins in the Gulbarga region of the state.
She was also involved in COVID-19 relief work in her constituency. "Today I am an MLA and politician in my own right. I have been vocal whenever the people of Karnataka have been oppressed either by way of the hijab ban or by the CAA-NRC,” said Kaneez.
Ahead of the elections in the state, the BJP government in April had scrapped the four per cent reservation for Muslims, which fell under the '2B category'.
The reservation was beneficial to Muslims of the state, whose families earned less than Rs eight lakh annual income, thus making them disadvantaged. The four per cent reservation was applicable in government colleges and jobs.
“I personally didn’t face many issues because of my hijab. This is because I had security guards with me at all times -- when I would travel for work, go to my office, or anywhere else. But I realise that most hijabi women in Karnataka don’t have that privilege,” she said.
Kaneez said that she would get disturbed watching the many videos of hijabi students being accosted by classmates, peers and members of right-wing outfits.
“It would upset me. I could identify with those women. I felt a heightened sense of urgency about the need for Congress to come back to power so that we can stop all this from happening,” said Kaneez. "So, in that sense, there was a lot more at stake this time," she added.
Kaneez is the only Muslim woman MLA in Karnataka in 2023. The only other Muslim woman MLA in the history of Karnataka was Mukhtar Unnisa Begum that too back in 1985.
Over 2,000 candidates contested in the 2023 Karnataka elections, of which only 185 were women, as per an analysis of the data available on the Election Commission website. Of these, only 11 made it to the Karnataka Assembly. Karnataka has never touched even 10 per cent representation of women in its Assembly, reports The Quint.
This is despite the fact that women voters play an important role in the elections. As per the Election Commission, more women than men polled in 52 assembly constituencies of the state this year.
Muslims too, despite being 13 per cent of the state’s population, have traditionally been under-represented in the Karnataka assembly. A total of nine Muslims made it to the Assembly this year, including Kaneez, making them four per cent of the Assembly. The highest number of Muslims to ever be in the Karnataka assembly was 11, back in 2013.
Kaneez said she recognises the under-representation at play here. “Muslims aren’t represented adequately, and neither are women. Muslim women, then, are grossly under-represented. There are a number of factors responsible for this. Society needs to be more accepting of Muslim women in politics and even the community needs to stop seeing it as a bad thing. They need to welcome it,” she said.
Kaneez also said that she didn’t just get support from Congress, but also from her own community. “Muslim residents and even the ulema (scholars) were very encouraging,” Kaneez said.
“Ulema in Karnataka and generally in southern states are far more educated, in terms of deeni (religious) education as well as duniya (worldly). So, they are encouraging of Muslim women in politics,” she said, reports The Quint.
A few social media users trolled Kaneez soon after her victory, sharing an old picture of hers performing the Umrah (holy pilgrimage) at Mecca. Kaneez said, “Communalism has risen in Karnataka over the years.”
“With BJP’s antics, communalism and hate have risen substantially in Karnataka in the last few years. Ours has traditionally been a syncretic society but things have got bad lately. Hopefully, now we can work to improve things,” she added.