Boxing world champion Nikhat Zareen on Monday weighed in on the smouldering controversy over Muslim girls wearing the hijab in schools and colleges, saying one's attire was entirely the subject of their choice.
"It is totally their own choice. I can't comment on their choices. I have my own choice. I like to wear such clothes. I don't mind wearing such clothes. My family doesn't mind me wearing such clothes. So, I don't care what people say about me," she told NDTV in an interview.
"But if they want to wear hijab and follow their religion, it's their personal choice. I don't have any problem with them wearing hijabs. After all, it's their own choice. I am okay with that," Nikhat Zareen said.
The controversy surrounding the hijab - the headscarf worn by some Muslim women - sprouted in Karnataka late last year after some right-wing groups objected to girls attending classes wearing hijabs.
The case spread across the state and beyond, snowballing into a legal face-off after the Karnataka government banned clothes "which disturb equality, integrity and public order".
The Karnataka High Court upheld the ban in March, ruling that hijabs were not an essential religious practise which can be protected under the Right to Freedom of Religion. The order has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
Along with controversies over Halal meat and protests against Muslim vendors outside Hindu temples, the hijab row was among a series of confrontations that have flared in BJP-ruled Karnataka ahead of elections.
The controversies, coupled with an alarming number of communal clashes in recent months, and public events with brazen hatemongering, have been criticised by the opposition and activists as attempts to sow religious discord for electoral gains.