‘Wearing hijab is fundamental right’: Siddaramaiah defends Karnataka students

Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the barring of students wearing the hijab is a politically motivated move, and that the government must take a stand on the issue.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah: ‘Wearing hijab is fundamental right’, he said, defending Karnataka students amid the hijab row
Congress leader Siddaramaiah: ‘Wearing hijab is fundamental right’, he said, defending Karnataka students amid the hijab row
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As more colleges in Karnataka have started denying entry to Muslim students wearing the hijab, the Congress in Karnataka has come out in support of the students’ right to wear the religious headscarf. Wearing the hijab is a fundamental right of the students, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah said to reporters. He also noted that by preventing them from attending classes, their right to education was being violated. 

Several educational institutions in Karnataka have started to bar students from wearing the hijab, though there is no government-mandated rule against the same. On February 2, a row broke out at the Government Pre-University College in Kundapura after a group of students wore saffron shawls to college, following which it was decided to bar students from wearing both the saffron shawl and the hijab in the college. 

Questioning the move, Siddaramaiah said, “Muslim girls have been wearing headscarf since the beginning. It is their fundamental right. Were they (students) wearing a saffron shawl earlier, whenever they come to colleges and schools? This is politically motivated. That's why the government should take a stand.” He went on to say, “Education is a fundamental right. If you prevent them from coming to school, what does it indicate? Is it not a violation of a fundamental right? The girls are from the Muslim community, they should not be deprived of getting education.” Many critics have also said that students have the right to wear the hijab, as the Constitution of India guarantees the right to freedom of religion. 

Responding to the latest incident in Kundapura, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also tweeted in support of the students and wrote: “It's been a strength of India that everyone is free to wear what they want. If the hijab is disallowed, what about the Sikh turban? The Hindu's forehead mark? The Christian's crucifix? This college is going down a slippery slope. Let the girls in. Let them study. Let THEM decide.”

Congress MLA Priyank Kharge tweeted: “These institutions have been running for years & have students from all walks of life. All these years there was no problem with the dress,food or religion. How come these issues have cropped up now? What is more important than educating the students?”

The row surrounding the hijab has garnered attention in Karnataka after a college in Udupi barred students wearing the headscarf from entering the classroom. Eight students have not been allowed to attend classes for over a month, and one of them has moved the Karnataka High Court over the matter. Even as the Udupi issue remains unresolved, similar incidents have cropped up in at least five other colleges in Karnataka, in Chikkamagaluru, Mangaluru, Shivamogga, and more recently in two colleges in Kundapura — in just a month.

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