Protests over hijab turn violent in Karnataka: Stones pelted, saffron flag hoisted in college

Section 144 has been imposed in Shivamogga city’s Bapujinagar after the clashes between students supporting the wearing of the hijab in classrooms and those who oppose it.
A person seen hoisting the saffron flag in a Shivamogga college as others cheer him on
A person seen hoisting the saffron flag in a Shivamogga college as others cheer him on
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Violence broke out in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district on Tuesday, February 8, after a group of saffron-clad students hoisted a saffron flag at the Government First Grade College. Visuals of the incident from the college located in Shivamogga city’s Bapujinagar show a sea of students wearing saffron shawls and protesting the hijab row, while cheering on a student who climbs up a flagpole and hoists the saffron flag. While Congress's DK Shivakumar has said that the saffron flag replaced the national flag that was previously hoisted there, the college principal has clarified that the flagpole was empty before the saffron flag was hoisted. The incident sparked violence at the college as stones were pelted on the campus.

This is the latest in a series of confrontations between students supporting the wearing of the hijab in classrooms, and those who oppose it. The saffron-clad agitators demanded that the hijab be banned in colleges, while Muslim students have stood their ground. 

Instances of stone pelting were also reported in the city, which led the police to carry out a lathicharge against the protesters. In view of the situation and as a precautionary measure, the district administration has ordered prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code for February 8 and February 9 in the city area.

In Bagalkot district too, there were incidents of minor tussles among opposing groups of students. In Banhatti, there was a skirmish at the Government Pre University College, where a group of saffron shawl-clad students stood in protest against students wearing hijabs and entering the college building. This led to an altercation and two groups started throwing stones. District Superintendent of Police Lokesh Jagalasar said that the students dispersed after the police intervened. He also said that both parties submitted a memorandum with their demands to the college, and agreed not to indulge in violence.

Read TNM’s ground report on the protests in Udupi’s MGM College: In Udupi, scores of saffron-clad students raise slogans against classmates in hijabs

Protests over the hijab row took place across Karnataka on Tuesday as the High Court continues to hear a batch of pleas filed by students who were barred from entering their colleges while wearing the hijab. The pleas contend that wearing the hijab is a Constitutional right. The petition also said that the exclusionary practice of singling out the petitioner solely on the basis of wearing hijab is against constitutional morality as it lacks any public interest. The petitioner sought interim relief from the court, allowing the students who wish to wear the hijab to attend classes.

Amid the protests, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra appealed to students not to resort to violence and to focus on their studies. "You (students) are all educated, you have to think about your future. After two years of COVID-19, this year classes have been conducted in a good way. This is the time for you to prepare for your exams that are coming up in a couple of months," he said.

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