The world is watching us: Karnataka High Court on hijab row

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On the same day, similar scenes were witnessed at Sir M Vishweshwaraiah Government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati of Shivamogga district…reports Asian Lite News

Labeling it “Talibanisation” and “go to Pakistan”, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have lashed out at students demanding that hijab be allowed. Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders have come in support of the Muslim students, urging the state government to not infringe on their fundamental right to education.

A timeline of events

December 2021

While the ‘hijab vs saffron scarf’ row is not new to Karnataka, the latest wave of communal flare up began in December 2021. Six students of Udupi Women’s PU College staged a protest for weeks after college authorities allegedly refused to let them sit in classrooms wearing hijab. After approaching district commissioner, education department officials, the girls have now petitioned the Karnataka High Court seeking relief.

3 January

Hindu students of the Government First Grade College in Koppa, Chikmagalur, which also has an uniform and a dress code, staged a sit-in protest sporting saffron scarves Monday. Their demand was also to allow them to wear saffron scarves if Muslim girl students were allowed to wear hijabs.

6 January

Similar scenes were witnessed in Pompei college of Mangaluru. Speaking to ThePrint then, Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister B.C. Nagesh had said the state was mulling a uniform dress code.

31 January

The issue flared up after students of Udupi Women’s PU college approached the HC seeking interim relief to attend classes wearing hijab.

The Karnataka government meanwhile asked all government colleges and schools to maintain status quo until the government committee comes up with a recommendation on dress code.

2 February

Kundapur Government PU college shut its gates on students wearing hijab after Hindu students wore saffron scarves. Videos of the girl students pleading with the principal to let them attend classes went viral.

On the same day, similar scenes were witnessed at Sir M Vishweshwaraiah Government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati of Shivamogga district.

3 February

The protests spread to another college in Kundapur. Bhandarkars’ Arts and Science College forcing the college management to shut the gates on students sporting hijab as well as saffron scarves.

More protests were witnessed at Byndoor Government PU college where more than 300 Hindu students backed by Hindutva organisatons wore saffron scarves to college. Protests were also seen in Belagavi Government PU college.

Politics over row

Leaders of the ruling BJP have vehemently opposed Muslim students seeking to wear hijab in colleges accusing the community of trying to ‘Talibanise’ educational institutions.

“BJP is in power in the state. There is no space for hijab or such things. School is a (Goddess) Saraswati temple. It is everyone’s duty to study within rules framed by the school. Talibanisation will not be allowed,” Karnataka BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel told reporters Saturday.

Other leaders of the party too have taken similarly strong stand against the Muslim community.

“If you ask me, Madrasas should be banned too, Urdu schools as well. Learn in Kannada, else go to Pakistan. What work do you have here? You want hijab, you want Urdu and all Islamic practises then go to Pakistan,” former Union minister Basanagouda Patil Yatnal told reporters Saturday.

Opposition parties Congress and JD(S), going after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (save the girl child, educate the girl child), have urged the government to ensure protesting students get access to education.

“Constitution has given the right to practice any religion which means one can wear any clothes according to their religion. Prohibiting hijab-wearing students from entering school is a violation of fundamental rights. The main agenda of the Sangh Parivar is to deny education to Muslim girls in the name of hijab,” Siddaramaiah, Leader of the Opposition in Karnataka legislature, told reporters Sunday.

Siddaramaiah was the first senior leader of the Congress to speak about the row.

Former party president and senior leader Rahul Gandhi too raised the matter via his social media page.

“The Union government brought in ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme but the BJP government in the state is using hijab as an excuse to implement ‘Beti Hatao’ (remove the girl child),” H.D. Kumaraswamy, former chief minister and JD(S) legislative party leader, told reporters Saturday.

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