A government college in Mangaluru has decided to shift all its classes online after a conflict over allowing students to wear the hijab in the classroom escalated last week. The P Dayananda Pai P Sathish Pai Government First Grade College in Mangaluru took the decision to suspend classes on campus after two FIRs were registered by the Mangaluru police against opposing groups of Hindu and Muslim students following an altercation outside the college.
Trouble began on Friday when a Muslim girl was confronted by her Hindu classmates when she was entering the college to write an examination. Hiba Sheikh, a second year BSc student, said that a group of boys from the ABVP tried to stop her from writing her internal examination and called her 'anti-national' and a 'terrorist'. In the confrontation, Hiba was seen arguing with three boys in the presence of police personnel. Hiba was heard asking the boys, "Is this your dad's college? We also pay fees and come here." The altercation was broken up by college authorities and police personnel.
A FIR was registered at the Mangaluru North Police Station based on a complaint submitted by Hiba accusing the boys Nithesh Shetty, Samanth Alva, Sanath Shetty, Sandesh, and others from the ABVP, of insulting and hurting the Muslim girl.
The complaint by Hiba was followed by a counter complaint by Kavana Shetty, a BCom student of the college, accusing Muslim students Hiba, Saina, Mumthaz, Rifana, Nisar, Alfaz, and Aboobakkar, of intimidating and hurting the Hindu students. "Have you talked to a professor and stopped us from writing the test? We will see you when you're going on the road, is the college your father's? We are also paying fees and coming," Hiba told the boys according to the complaint. The complaint also added that Sandesh, one of the boys, received death threats on social media though it was not specified who issued the threats.
Responding to the counter complaint, Hiba said that the complainant Kavana is the ABVP secretary of the college and the complaint against her was baseless. "It's clearly visible in the video that ABVP secretary Kavana Shetty was nowhere near the place where the incident happened. This FIR against me and my innocent college mates is a baseless allegation," Hiba said. Kavana Shetty declined to discuss the incident when TNM reached out to her.
The college principal Rajashekara Hebbar said that the college had given permission for some Muslim students to enter the library wearing the hijab. "Until the recent conflict in Udupi, there were a few Muslim girls who did not wear the hijab to class, but now all Muslim girls are coming to college wearing the hijab. We had allowed a few girls to enter the library for an internal examination on Thursday, but some boys confronted her when she was coming to college," Rajashekara Hebbar told TNM.
Following the conflict in the campus, the principal suspended offline classes and started online classes until tension eases in the college "We are asking the girls to follow the government order and High Court directive. We had only allowed her to write an internal examination in the library. There is confusion because different college committees in the district are taking different decisions on allowing students in the library. We have now decided to take online classes till the situation is resolved," Rajashekara Hebbar said.
The hijab row in Karnataka broke out in a government college in Udupi when the college refused permission for six students to wear the hijab in the classroom in December 2021. The students approached the Karnataka High Court on January 31 seeking to wear the hijab on campus and soon, saffron shawl protests were held in colleges in Kundapur, Baindur and Udupi by Hindu students agitating against their Muslim classmates. The state government passed an order on February 5 delegating the powers to decide the school uniform to the College Development Committees (CDC), which effectively led to a hijab ban in many colleges across Karnataka.
Currently, scores of Muslim students in colleges in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada have stayed away from the examinations in their colleges following the decision to ban the hijab inside the classroom. Colleges in the two districts have a heavy police presence keeping a check on Muslim students arriving at the campus wearing the hijab.