Now, polarisation over hijab in Karnataka colleges: Developments so far

Eight pre-university students in Udupi have been barred from attending classes for wearing hijab; a ‘counter protest’ was held in two other colleges by some students wearing saffron scarves.
Students in Chikkamagaluru college standing outside a classroom wearing saffron scarves
Students in Chikkamagaluru college standing outside a classroom wearing saffron scarves
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Two weeks after a group of Muslim students in Karnataka were denied entry into the classroom for wearing a hijab, students in two other pre-university colleges held protests wearing saffron scarves inside their college. This has prompted the state government to discuss a law to ensure a common dress code among students.

Since December 27, a group of eight students from Udupi’s Government Pre-university College have been barred from attending classes for wearing a hijab (head scarf) to class. The college has a uniform for its students and the students say that they began wearing the hijab in the classroom only in December. Previously students were using the hijab in the campus, outside the classroom. Though a few students say that their seniors were allowed to wear the hijab even inside the classroom, the college principal, Rudre Gowda, said that he took the decision to bar the students for uniformity.

The principal’s decision has been met with resistance from Muslim organisations including the Campus Front of India (CFI), affiliated to the Popular Front of India, which has backed the girls over the issue and accused the principal of discrimination. “We want the school to allow them to attend classes wearing the head scarf. The eight girls have not attended classes in the last two weeks,” Nazhat Assadi from CFI in Udupi said.

Meanwhile, in response to the situation in Udupi, a group of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members from Pompei College in Mangaluru wore saffron scarves inside the college premises on Thursday, January 6 to protest against students who wear the hijab inside the college. Here, the situation was resolved after a meeting was held between Hindu and Muslim leaders, and it was decided that the college uniform will be followed.

This is the second college in Karnataka where such a protest was staged in the last week after a similar protest at a government college in Balagadi Chikkamagaluru. The college principal, Anantha Murthy, has sought permission to hold a meeting with parents over the issue on Monday, January 10.

In Udupi, the situation is yet to be resolved, with the principal continuing to bar the eight students from attending classes. The girls, along with Muslim organisations CFI and Girls Islamic Organisation, approached the Udupi Deputy Commissioner Kurma Rao over their issue but there has been no progress.

Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh told TNM that the state government will allow the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) in each of the three institutions to take a decision on the clothing to be worn by students during classes. “We have discussed this with the state government leadership but there is no law at present and we have not taken a decision on this. It is up to the SDMC to decide on the uniformity in the dress code in schools and colleges,” Nagesh said.

He suggested that both hijabs and saffron scarves should not be allowed in classrooms and defended the actions of the students who wore saffron scarves. “In response to what happened in Udupi, students wore saffron scarves to schools. How can we say no to this now? We cannot disrupt discipline because 6-8 students decided to wear the hijab,” Nagesh said.

The Minister also backed the principal in Udupi’s Government PU College over the issue saying that the dress code issued by the institution should be respected. “We want to see uniformity for the betterment of the students. The uniform will create a good atmosphere in schools and ensure there is no inferiority complex among students,” Nagesh added.

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