Muskaan Khan has inadvertently become the face of resistance for young Indian Muslim women amid an escalating row over hijabs, or headscarves.
In a video that has gone viral, the 19-year-old student can be seen entering her college as a mob of men approach her. Wearing saffron shawls – a colour associated with Hinduism and Hindu nationalist groups – they started shouting “Jai Shri Ram” or “victory to Lord Ram”.
As they continued to heckle her, Ms Khan, who was wearing a hijab and a face mask along with a long black gown, stood her ground – she shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in return. Soon, college authorities escorted her inside.
“All that I want is to stand by my rights and education,” she told the BBC from her home in Karnataka state’s Mandya city, where the video was shot.
“I have no problems with what they wear,” she said, adding people can wear saffron stoles or turbans to college, just like she wore the hijab.
Ms Khan and millions of Muslim women in India wear the hijab and the burka every day – but the choice has turned controversial in recent weeks.
It started when students at a pre-university college, equivalent to a high school, in Karnataka’s Udupi district, began protesting last month over a ban on headscarves – the college said students could wear the hijab on campus but not in the classroom.
The issue has since snowballed as other schools began implementing a similar ban – and has taken on communal overtones with supporters of Hindu nationalist groups launching protests in support of the ban.
As protests turned violent in some places, the Karnataka government closed high schools and colleges – and the matter has even reached the state’s high court. A three-judge constitutional bench is set to hear the case on Thursday.
Meanwhile, campuses appear to be polarised with Hindu students turning up wearing saffron scarves.
Ms Khan, the daughter of a local businessman, alleges that in her case, the situation was orchestrated mostly by men who were “outsiders” and not students or classmates.
“I reached my college to attend class and found that there were a lot of youngsters wearing saffron stoles,” she said.
“They blocked my path and said that I could not enter the college premises.”
When she reached the gate, she said she saw three or four students, who were wearing burkas, being turned away by the young men.
“They were holding their scarves and were shouting Jai Sri Ram. They told me to remove my hijab and only then would I be allowed inside my college. They threatened me.”
But Ms Khan said she was determined to fight back.
She parked her scooter and proceeded to her class, when, she said, “some 30-40 youngsters” came towards her, shouting “Jai Shri Ram”.
“Once again, they told me to remove my hijab if I want to go inside,” she said. “Yes, I did scream Allahu Akbar. When I get scared, I call out to Allah and it gives me strength.”
It was then that the principal and teachers came rushing out and escorted her inside.
Ms Khan says she is happy to see the appreciation she has received on social media: “So much love they are giving me and it gives me so much strength. I thank them very very much.”
She also makes it clear that she is “not differentiating between Hindus and Muslims”.
“These boys were not allowing me to educate [myself] because I am wearing a hijab,” she said. “So, I am just standing up for my rights.”