SC: Growing Beards is ‘Talibanising India’

April 1, 2009

The word Talibanisation is back in limelight. This time though, its from the Supreme Court judge Justice Markandeya Katju, in his description of students sporting beards in schools and colleges.

Justice Katju reportedly passed the obsesrvation while dismissing the petition of a student. Mohammad Salim of Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in Madhya Pradesh, had sought repealing of the school regulation requiring students to be clean-shaven.

We in India, are proud of our Constitution that provides for secular values and the fundamental right to practice and preach the religion of our choice. The law of the land has never been a hurdle with respect to maintaining one’s religious identity. At this juncture, the observation of the judge regarding beards synonymously with Talibanising is abysmal.

When people talk about Talibanisation, they talk in terms of terrorism, fanaticism, or negative fundamentalism. One wonders how merely sporting a beard be associated with these detrimental traits? If by sheer growing of a beard one becomes a terrorist, then Pandit Sri Sri Ravishankarji should have topped the list of terrorists in the country, given the size of his beard.

The beard is a significant part of Muslim identity just like tilak for the Hindu brethren and turban for the Sikh brothers. It is unfair really to paint one in negative colours and associate it with barbarism. It would be interesting to know what Justice Katju has to say about banning tilak and the Sikh turban in schools and colleges. Also, what would be his take on the poojas that take place in Government offices?

True that during the trial, the clean shaven counsel for Salim Justice (retd) B A Khan’s view that the beard is an indispensable part of the Muslim identity boomeranged on him. But the individual’s paradox better not be generalized. There are hundreds of lip service Muslims who do not follow the tenets of Islam. One cannot judge the religion and its doctrines based on what such hypocrites do or say. Besides, there are bound to be exceptions in the society. Jagjit Singh and Gulzar do not sport beards but are Sikhs all the same. Does it mean that because they are not bearded, the entire Sikh community should be banned from growing beards?

As regards classrooms, the beard has a valid lineage of centuries with students in gurukulas, the sanths and the sadhus donning beards and lengthy ones at that. The very convent that is preventing Salim from keeping a beard would regard Jesus Christ (pbuh) in highest reverence, who himself had a fairly long beard. Almost in all religions one finds that the religious heads grew beards. Whether it was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Sri Sai Baba, or Gurunanakji, their facial hair invariably accompanied their aura.

Folks love to compare the ‘brutal Taliban regime’ and the people friendly democratic set ups in the world. Abraham Lincoln, the man who redefined democracy, had a beard as rich as the jungles of Amazon!

The remark is condemnable for sure, and quite clearly does not facilitate the upholding of the fundamental rights of the citizens. Even more disheartening it is however, that it has come from the apex court – the supposed custodian of justice.

(This write up has been published in THE HINDU newspaper. The link for its online version –


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: