A school in Lucknow is facing a magisterial inquiry over a Class 9 student being sent home for wearing a hijab though the move has been supported by principals of other educational institutions in the city.
St Joseph's Inter College on May 7 refused to let Farheen Fatima enter her classroom because she was wearing a hijab or headscarf.
Anil Agarwal, managing director of St Joseph’s, said the girl's act had violated the school's dress code. "If somebody wants to wear a religious dress, they should seek admission in a madrasa or some such school," he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
The girl's mother wrote to the school and filed a complaint about the "unconstitutional" action with the district magistrate, who ordered a magisterial inquiry. He directed the additional city magistrate to record the statement of the principal and submit a report by May 19.
The school responded on Friday by saying that allowing Fatima to enter the school with a hijab "would not be appropriate and granting such permission might lead to more issues in the near future," The Indian Express reported.
Fatima's family has withdrawn her from St Joseph's and is looking for admission elsewhere in the city.
In a statement submitted to the district magistrate on Friday, St Joseph's founder-manager Pushplata Agarwal said that "at the time of admission, the parents had not stated that their child would study with a hijab…the student was told that she can come to the school with a hijab but will have to remove it and keep it at an earmarked place and that she cannot wear a hijab inside the classroom."
Support for school's decision
Principals of other schools in the city have openly extended support to St Joseph's. They argued that the school's management was only enforcing discipline and there is no room for religion in this matter.
The schools said there is nothing wrong in the decision to deny entry to the girl and that "discipline, especially regarding uniforms, should be maintained at all cost."
Fr Denis Naresh Lobo, principal of St Francis’ College, said students should strictly adhere to discipline and "uniform is meant for uniformity".
He said: "There shouldn’t be any differences based on religion, caste and languages. All are equal. We are one."
Hoerner College principal Mala Singh Mehra said schools were and should be secular in their approach.
"The uniform is meant to ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, race, colour, socio economic background and religion," she said. At present it was an issue of the hijab but later there could be other reasons to object, she added.
Those seeking admission in schools of secular orientation should accept their norms, Mehra said.