The photo was from a programme at Poovachal Government Vocational Higher Secondary school in Thiruvananthapuram attended by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other ministers.

Girls in hijab sing prayer, photo shared by V SivankuttyCredit : V Sivankutty/Twitter
news Hijab row Thursday, February 10, 2022 - 20:48

A picture of six schoolgirls wearing hijabs and folding their hands singing a prayer song at the podium in their school in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and three other ministers was widely shared on social media on February 10, Thursday. The girls were singing "Ammaykkum Achanum Aadhyam Pranamam, Acharyanmarkkum koodi Pranamam - a prayer song during the programme to inaugurate new building at the Poovachal Government Vocational Higher Secondary School at Thiruvananthapuram.

The photograph was taken when the CM and other ministers visited the school to inaugurate its new buildings as part of the Navakeralam Action Plan-Vidyakiranam Mission to protect and preserve public schools. Kerala Education minister V Sivankutty shared the photo on social media and wrote "Kerala, Our pride."  The Education minister was present along with Chief Minister Pinaryai Vijayan and ministers Antony Raju and GR Anil.  The government has inaugurated 53 such high-tech school buildings recently.  The Communist Party of India (Marxist) party page shared the photo and wrote, “Chief Minister Com Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated 53 new hi-tech school buildings. An all-girls school choir singing a secular welcome song -- "thank you for this world, a house of love" -- wearing their school uniforms — headscarves are not a public order problem — Education a Fundamental Right”

Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday had strongly condemned the hijab row in Karnataka. "This shows how dangerous communalism is for our country. Educational institutions should be places to nurture secularism. Instead, efforts are made to inject communal venom in young children,” he said in a press meet. He said that there was an organised move to spread communalism and pointed to the social media attack against Shah Rukh Khan over offering ‘dua’ during the funeral of singer Lata Mangeshkar. The Kerala CM also urged secular thinkers to be more vigilant and try their best to act against such attempts.

Kerala itself is no stranger to challenges on wearing religious attire in school. In 2018, hearing the petition of two schoolgirls seeking the right to wear headscarf and full sleeve shirt in class, the Kerala High Court had ruled that the individual right could not be imposed over the larger right of the institution. The court said it was for the institution to decide whether the petitioners could be permitted to attend the classes with the headscarf and ull sleeve shirt and refused to direct the institution.

More recently, the Kerala government refused to allow student police cadets to wear a hijab or full sleeve dress or any other religious symbols which were not part of their uniform.