In the wake of the 'hijab' (headscarf) row, the Karnataka government has asked educational institutions to follow existing uniform related rules, until the High Court comes out with an order in this regard, next week. With the issue snowballing into a major controversy spreading to other educational institutions, and the matter coming up before the High Court, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Friday, February 4 held a meeting with Primary and Secondary Education Minister B C Nagesh and top government officials, regarding the government's stand.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah threw his weight behind Muslim girls on their right to wear the hijab to educational institutions, and hit out at the BJP government. "As the matter is before the court, the Chief Minister today held a meeting with the Legal department and the Primary and Secondary Education departments. He has advised us to inform the government's stand to the court after getting the Advocate General's opinion. Legal department informed the meeting as to what the law and rules say," Nagesh said.
Alleging "hidden hands" behind the hijab controversy as attempts are on to make it an international news, Nagesh said, "some people who are against this country, as part of a propaganda, are doing this. They are unable to digest India's standing globally and the respect our Prime Minister is getting internationally."
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, the Minister said, rules have been framed in 2013, 2018 on the basis of the Karnataka Education Act, according to which educational institutions and its SDMC (School Development and Monitoring Committee) have the rights to prescribe the uniform to its students.
"We have gone through all this and the government will take a decision soon. We have already issued a circular stating that uniforms prescribed by the SCDMs before the academic year and worn by the students until now, should be continued until the High Court's verdict is out," he said, adding that no one can impose their personal or any religion's stand in educational institutions.
The Karnataka High Court on February 8 will hear the petitions filed by five girls studying in a Government Pre-university College in Udupi, questioning hijab restriction in college.
There is an ongoing row over wearing hijab by some students at a government pre-university college at Udupi.
In another incident, Muslim girl students of the Kundapur PU college, who reached the institution wearing the hijab, were stopped at the gate by the principal.
A number of Hindu students, mostly boys, came to college wearing saffron shawls, as a counter to the Muslim girls wearing hijabs.
The Minister pointed out that the Kerala and Bombay High Court have specifically stated in their earlier orders that headscarves can't be worn in educational institutions.
"....Kerala and Bombay High Court have clearly stated in their judgement relating to similar cases at institutions there, that headscarf cannot be worn," he said.
Appealing to students not to become "scapegoat" for someone else, he said, let there not be any atmosphere of hatred, at the time when they will have to face exams in about two months.
The Minister said students had joined these schools because of their good reputation, and at the time of joining the Principal had informed them about the rules and regulations there, including uniform rules, in writing, which they had accepted in writing and had signed for it.
"Until January first week, rules were followed duly by all students, but thereafter what mischief by someone, led them to take such a stand (regarding wearing hijab) and boycott classes, we are unable to understand," he said, adding that for the last one month several attempts have been made by local MLAs and community leaders to convince the girl students.
To a question about more students coming to educational institutions wearing hijab and Hindu students coming with saffron shawl as a retaliatory measure, he said, "there may be some natural reactions, but we have also not allowed those who had come wearing saffron shawls to attend classes. There is no different stand for them."
Meanwhile, coming out in support of Muslim girls’ right to wear hijab, Siddaramaiah said, denying the girls entry inside a college, that too, a government college is a violation of the students' fundamental rights.
He accused the BJP of instigating students to wear saffron shawls, to make it an issue.
Hitting back at Siddaramaiah, Nagesh said the rules regarding uniform were framed during the Congress leader's government and asked him to study the Karnataka Education Act and related rules.
Stating that educational institutions have uniforms and one cannot wear what one likes for religious reasons, Kannada and Culture Minister V Sunil Kumar said the BJP government won't let Karnataka, Udupi or Mangaluru become "another Taliban."
Some groups are trying to make campuses religious, he alleged.