Kerala engineer forced to wear veil; protect her, HC tells police

The Kerala High Court today directed the police to provide protection to a young Muslim engineering graduate who says she is facing threats "for failing to wear purdah and headscarf".

In her petition, Rayana R Kazi has named one Muhammed Kavugoli as the respondent, a man who claims to be an activist of the Popular Front of India (PFI), the fundamentalist Muslim body which allegedly chopped off a Christian teacher's hand last month. Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has accused the PFI of attempting to turn Kerala into a "Muslim country" in the next 20 years.

A division bench of Justices K M Joseph and M L Joseph Francis today asked Kavugoli to appear before the court on August 18.

Rayana, who belongs to Kasargod district, says she has been under pressure from orthodox elements in her community to wear a headscarf and observe purdah since June 2009, when she returned from Chennai after completing an engineering course.

Two weeks ago, she got a letter, allegedly from Kavugoli, which accused her of insulting Islam and warned her of dire consequences.

"Seeing me in jeans and shirt, the local people of my community had unleashed a campaign that I had abandoned Islam. I strongly believe that I have the freedom to wear any dress of my choice," said Rayana, who is now awaiting the result of the Civil Services Preliminary Exam.

Rayana said she has been getting threatening calls and anonymous letters for over a year. "I took up the matter with the local police and the state women's commission, but the harassment has not stopped."

"My four younger sisters and parents too have been facing insults. The moral police has been spreading rumours that I have converted to Christianity," said Rayana, the eldest daughter of a businessman.

In the recent months, Kerala has witnessed agitations by Muslim organisations demanding that Muslim girls be allowed to wear headscarves at school.

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