The Karnataka government has now said that the status quo will continue — all students must wear the college uniform — till the issue is discussed by the expert committee.

The Women's Government Pre-University College in Udupi, which is at the centre of the hijab controversyWomen's Government Pre-University College in Udupi
news Controversy Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - 14:02

The Karnataka government on Tuesday, January 25, set up an expert committee to resolve the hijab row in Udupi, and said that all students of the Women's Government Pre-University College in Udupi must adhere to the uniform rule till the committee decides on the issue. The college is at the centre of controversy after eight students staged a protest after they were barred from wearing hijab in the classroom by the college, who said it is not part of the uniform. The Karnataka government has now said that the status quo will continue — all students must wear the college uniform  — till the issue is discussed by the expert committee.

The order states that a committee has already been set up to resolve the matter. The committee will come to a conclusion after reviewing judgments in the Supreme Court and various High Courts surrounding the issue, it said, adding that the government will resolve the matter depending on the committee’s report. However, the members of the committee and the timeline for the report are not yet clear.

The government’s order comes a day before the college is set to reopen —  on Thursday, January 27 —  after a six-day holiday was announced amid the Hijab controversy. The holiday was announced after six students tested positive for the coronavirus. A note issued from the principal stated that all students were expected back on campus on January 27.

However, the college is planning to ask the eight students at the centre of the controversy to take online classes from Thursday, Udupi BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat told TNM. Bhat, who heads the development monitoring committee for the college, said, “If the students continue to insist on wearing the hijab in classes, we will allow them to attend classes online and write the exams. We will also give them the attendance requirement for the classes they missed.”

BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat added, “Hijab is not a part of the uniform, and we have had a dress code followed in the college for years.” The Udupi MLA also said that if the protesting students don't agree to the online classes also then they can join a different college next year.

The principal secretary of the Primary and Education department issued an order to the principal of the Women's Government Pre University College on Tuesday. It stated that “students in Udupi are asking to wear a dress of their choice despite knowing and accepting the college's dress code. The issue that was not there till now has been created and it is not from an educational perspective." This is despite the fact that, in the order, the Education department admits that there is no mandatory uniform for government college students. The order also stated that an expert committee will be set up to decide on the uniform and dress codes in colleges in the state.

However, the students insist that they followed the college dress code and wore the correct uniform, but merely wore the hijab over it. The students at the centre of the controversy were unavailable for comment. But student leaders from the Campus Front of India insisted that the students will continue to reiterate their right to wear the hijab when classes in the college resume on Thursday. The girls have reiterated that it is their fundamental right to wear the hijab inside the classroom.

The eight students have been protesting against the ban on the hijab since December 27, and were marked absent despite going to college every day. The incident sparked widespread controversy and counter-protests by right-wing activists, and is yet to be resolved. Read TNM’s ground report on the issue here: It's our right to wear hijab, don't bar us from class: Udupi students speak up

Also read: Hindu group barges into Karnataka school, opposes students offering namaz in classroom

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