The controversy over wearing of hijab in colleges is part of a conspiracy to poison the minds of the young people, Karnataka PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) president D K Shivakumar said on Monday. Addressing a press meet at the district Congress committee office in Mangaluru, he said the "hijab row is an insult to our country and against the tradition of the land."
He said the coastal region has its own history, culture and human resources and is known as an educational hub. An attempt is being made to change the tradition and poison young minds by fuelling the hijab row.
He said instead of addressing several issues like unemployment and petrol price hike, sensitive issues like hijab-wearing are being raked up by vested interests. Shivakumar expressed the hope that the students will soon get justice on the hijab issue as all have faith in the constitution.
On Dakshina Kannada district-in-charge Minister V Sunil Kumar's statements on the row, Shivakumar said the minister has the responsibility to abide by the oath taken in the assembly.
Earlier, talking to reporters at the airport in Mangaluru, he alleged that the BJP is trying to create unrest among the students and public over the issue. He claimed that the saffron party has been following this line since its inception.
The hijab row in Karnataka intensified on Monday with some students seeking to defy the government order mandating uniform style of clothes as Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai issued an appeal to maintain peace. The government, however, made it clear entry into classrooms with hijab will not be allowed.
At a college at Kundapur in Udupi district of the state, the principal talked to girl students wearing hijabs and explained the government order to them. But the students insisted on wearing the headscarves, and were asked to go to a separate room arranged for them.
Education Minister B C Nagesh said students who insist on hijab-wearing will not be allowed into the government educational institutions. Then, he asked some students protesting on the street outside the college to sit in a separate room but they were not imparted lessons.
"Protesting on the road is a nuisance. So they were asked to sit in a room but under no circumstances they were allowed to sit in the classrooms (with hijab) or separate classes were held for them," Nagesh said.
Girls sitting on the road is not Indian culture, he said and went on to say: "Indian culture has given women a respectable position. Hence, a separate room for them... The innocent children aren't aware how to reach schools."
According to him, the separate arrangement is only for a day as everyone is waiting for the hearing in the Karnataka High Court over the row on Tuesday.
A group of students came in a procession today wearing saffron shawls. They were prevented from entering the premises by their principal and the police personnel there. The students said they will wear the shawls if hijab-wearing girls were allowed in class. They agreed to enter the classes by removing their shawls only after the principal assured them that no hijab-wearing student will be allowed.
Two persons were arrested on the charge of brandishing knives during the hijab-saffron shawl protest by students, police said. They were arrested near the college on a tip-off that five people arrived at the spot with lethal weapons to create communal tension on Friday, police sources said. Police are on the lookout for three other people suspected to be involved in the case. The two arrested have criminal cases pending against them, said police sources.
Meanwhile, some students sporting blue scarves entered a college in Chikkamagaluru, and raised the slogan 'Jai Bhim' in front of those wearing saffron scarves. These students supported the hijab-wearing girls. There were reports of some students in Chikkaballapura, Bagalkote, Belagavi, Hassan and Mandya coming to colleges wearing hijab and saffron scarves in defiance of the government order issued on Saturday banning any cloth other than a uniform.
In Belagavi and Mandya, girls raised slogans demanding justice during a protest rally demanding permission for wearing hijab. Ahead of the High Court hearing on the row, Bommai appealed to everyone to maintain peace and said his government would take steps after the court order. He asked institutions to follow mandatory uniform rules issued by the government until the court order is out.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, he said, "the matter is before the High Court and it will be decided there. Therefore, I appeal to everyone to maintain peace and no one should take steps to disturb peace."
"All should follow the State's order (on uniform) until the court decides," he said.
The court would hear the petitions of five girls questioning the restriction on wearing hijab. Bommai noted that the Constitution has mentioned in several ways what kind of dress to be worn in schools and colleges and even the state's Education Act has made it clear in the Rules. Asked why the row has refused to die down in the state, he said the issue is not limited to Karnataka as it has been discussed in a big way in Kerala and Maharashtra where the matter was decided by the respective high courts.