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Indian actor arrested for tweet on hijab ban

Chetan Kumar Ahimsa, Indian actor and activist

Indian actor and activist Chetan Kumar Ahimsa has been arrested in India allegedly for posting a tweet criticizing one of the judges hearing pleas against the ban on hijab in schools.

The police action came a week after Kumar in a Twitter post dated February 16 questioned whether Justice Krishna Dixit had “the clarity required” to oversee the hijab row case after having previously made “disturbing comments” in a rape case.

Kumar retweeted an older post of her own dated June 27, 2020 in which he had said the judge had observed that it was “unbecoming of an Indian woman” to “fall asleep” after she is “ravished,” granting advance bail to the defendant in a rape case.

This is a tweet I wrote nearly two years ago regarding a Karnataka High Court decision

Justice Krishna Dixit made such disturbing comments in a rape case

Now this same judge is determining whether #hijabs are acceptable or not in govt schools

Does he have the clarity required?

— Chetan Kumar Ahimsa / ಚೇತನ್ ಅಹಿಂಸಾ (@ChetanAhimsa) February 16, 2022

The actor is a vocal activist for social causes and tweets often. A US citizen and a Fulbright scholar, Chetan Kumar is a firebrand Dalit rights activist who has been involved in several anti-right-wing protests in Karnataka.

Critics say he is often targeted for his social work and he is already facing two police complaints for his remarks against the Brahmin community, who are at the top of India’s Hindu caste hierarchy.

On Tuesday evening, the police issued a statement announcing that Kumar had been arrested for his tweet under “intent to incite a class or community to commit offence against another class or community” and for “intentionally insulting, thereby giving provocation to any person to break public peace.”

Police added that the actor would appear before a judicial magistrate but did not specify when. They announced that he would remain in jail at least till Friday, February 25.

Earlier this month, hijab-wearing Muslim girl students were barred from entering schools and colleges across Karnataka State.

The Karnataka High Court, in an interim order, has restrained all students, regardless of their religion or faith, from wearing saffron shawls, scarfs, hijab, religious flags, or the like inside classrooms.

The hijab ban has galvanized public sentiment, with people of all faiths questioning religious freedom and equality in one of the world’s most diversified countries. It has also stoked fears among the Muslim community about increasing persecution under the Hindu-nationalist government.

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