TNM spoke to him on the current situation in the state’s colleges after the High Court verdict regarding hijab, his proposal to introduce Bhagwad Gita in schools and other current issues in an exclusive interview.

Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh
news Interview Friday, March 25, 2022 - 19:30

In the last few months, as students from colleges across Karnataka have been polarised over wearing hijab and saffron shawls inside classrooms, the role of the Education Minister has been under particular scrutiny. BC Nagesh, Karnataka’s Primary & Secondary Education Minister has courted controversy for brazenly speaking against students who wanted to continue wearing the hijab. TNM spoke to him on the current situation in the state’s colleges after the High Court verdict regarding hijab, his proposal to introduce Bhagwad Gita in schools and other current issues in an exclusive interview.

Why have students who have missed classes because of the hijab row not being allowed to take reexamination?

There has been no reexamination conducted for anyone, not just those who were not allowed to take the exams because of the hijab. This has applied in the past to anyone who has missed for any reason–missing a bus to the exam hall, met with an accident, or anything else. Also, the final examination has not begun for anyone yet. Only practical exams are being conducted. So whoever wants to attend them can wear the uniform and come. The final exams are in April. If they are really serious (about exams), they will follow rules. Seeing the way they spoke in front of news channels, it doesn't look like they are keen on taking the exam. They are saying our religious sentiments are more important than exams.

According to the information you have, how many Muslim students have missed classes and examination due to the hijab?

As per official information, there are not even hundreds of students from the Muslim community who have skipped college. And not all of them are science students. Many of them are from Arts stream so do not even have practical exams. So this is all incorrect. According to us, barring those six students (the petitioners who appealed to the Karnataka High court) nobody else has missed exams. We have to take into consideration how many from science courses issued exams and as per my information, not more than 100 students across the state have missed exams due to the hijab rule. The highest number of absentee students on a single day was 1,042 students across Karnataka. This includes students from both I and II PU (Pre University). So reports that say that many students have missed their exams are not true, just political.

You have been quoted as saying that there are plans to ‘modernise’ Madrasas in the state. What are your plans?

Madrasas do not provide the education required for students to give competitive exams or in sync with requirements of today’s world. But we have no plans to modernise Madrasas. Madrasas are not run by us. If anybody from there asks us for assistance, we will help them. We feel that students going to Madrasas need proper education. They can just become Mullahs (Islamic clergy).

What are your plans regarding including Bhagwad Gita in the curriculum?

I have said that moral education has to be brought back, there were discussions about this in both the houses. When we were growing up, we had Moral Science classes where we would read about stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra etc. Gandhi too had said that I became the person I am because my mother read stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata to me. So we want to bring moral science back. You can read the life history of any freedom fighter, they have said we read the Bhagavad Gita.

You have said that Bhagwad Gita is not just people from one religion but for all. But how is this okay and hijab not allowed?

Much before other religions were born in the world, Krishna had narrated the Bhagavad Gita. There were no other religions in existence then. In that, there is just information about how to lead one’s life, not rituals or religion. It was narrated to clear Arjuna’s mind of confusion. Today all of us too are in different types of confusion. So Bhagavad Gita will help people form their thoughts, get moral clarity.

Do you plan to introduce Bhagwad Gita from this academic year?

We are not sure if we can start this from this year, but we are serious that we have to bring in some form of Moral Science classes. It is not enough if students just study Mathematics and Sciences.

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