The Soapbox: A hijab ban in India, Liz Truss’s resignation, and protests in Chad

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN’s news desk analyzing major developments in world news and rounding up the stories we think are worth the read this week. Global consciousness for a global university.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Tori Morales, Deputy News Editor

In India, a court fails to rule on state school’s hijab ban

India’s Supreme Court could not decide if a state-run college’s ban on hijabs violated the rights of religion and self expression of women who were barred from classes for wearing the garment. Two divided justices have now recommended that the case, which reflects a larger push against Islam, be tried by a larger bench.

An initial ruling decided in March argued that the hijab was not essential to Islam, and that the government had a right to mandate uniforms. The college, located in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, has allegedly prevented six students from attending classes for weeks because they refused to remove their hijabs. 

A month later, hundreds of Hindu students protested against hijabs, wearing saffron-colored scarves and chanting “victory to Lord Ram” — two common signs used by India’s Hindu far-right. The state shut down several schools due to concerns of violence.

India’s far-right has become bolder since the 2014 election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party has pursued a Hindu nationalist policy — claiming that Hinduism is the “cornerstone of Indian society,” and more recently, calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses. Violence against Muslims has increased under Modi. Riots in 2020 led to over 40 deaths — many of whom were Muslims and beaten or burned to death by Hindu nationalists — in Delhi.

The conflict has even spread abroad, with Leicester, England, seeing weeks of violence after a cricket match between the mostly-Hindu India and the predominantly-Muslim Pakistan. 

“Today, as a Muslim woman, I feel our identity is in danger,” Sabika Abbas Naqvi, a Muslim poet, told Al Jazeera. “This new India is being built on our lynched bodies and the debris of our lives and our dreams. We fear we are being excluded from a nation that guaranteed us belongingness under the constitution.”

In Chad, dozens die in protests against military junta

Over 50 people died in the central African country of Chad after government security forces fired at protestors who were calling for a faster transition to democratic rule. The country has remained unsteady since the recent death of President Idriss Déby, who ruled for 30 years.

On Oct. 20, hundreds took to the streets of N’Djamena, Chad’s capital. Some barricaded roads and set fire to the prime minister’s party headquarters. Protests also occurred in other cities across the country. 

The junta had previously extended its time frame for holding elections, setting off the protests. After Déby’s death last April, his son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, and the military seized power, flouting the constitutional order. However, they promised to hold elections in 18 months — a deadline that would have expired in mid-October of this year. On Oct. 1, they approved a new timeline promising to hold elections in a “maximum” of 24 months, extending Itno’s rule. 

This is the deadliest wave of protests that has occurred in Chad since Déby’s death, and the government’s actions have been condemned by France — Chad’s former colonizer — as well as the African Union and Amnesty International. The United Nations has requested a probe into security force actions.

“We deplore lethal use of force against protesters in #Chad,” a United Nations Human Rights Office tweet reads. “Transitional authorities must ensure safety and protection of #HumanRights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Reported violations must be investigated.”

In Britain, a head of lettuce outlasts Liz Truss

Prime Minister Liz Truss announced her resignation on Oct. 20, just six days after the Daily Star, a British tabloid, began a livestream featuring a head of lettuce — testing whether the Tory prime minister would last longer than the produce’s shelf life. Her 45 days in office were marked by economic blunders that sent the value of the British pound into freefall.

Truss, who took office on Sept. 6, succeeded Boris Johnson, who resigned in July amid scandals that resulted in over 50 parliament resignations. The search to replace Johnson took more than a month, but Truss has only given the Conservative Party a week to choose her successor, during which she will remain in her position. Likely candidates include Johnson, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, and Rishi Sunak, a former finance minister who criticized Truss’ tax cuts.

When Truss announced her major tax cuts, which totaled up to $48 billion, in late September, the value of the pound — which had been dropping since January — plummeted to its lowest since the 1980s. On Oct. 17, a new finance minister forced Truss to drop most of her economic plan and pivot toward one more closely aligned with the opposition Labour party. However, this was not enough to rescue her perilous position. Now, Britain is scrambling to find its third prime minister this year, and its economic future remains uncertain.

“Our country had been held back for too long by low economic growth,” Truss said in her resignation speech. “I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this. We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance, and we set out a vision for a low-tax, high-growth economy … I recognise, though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party.”

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected].