Another K’taka college denies students entry for wearing hijab

Updated on Feb 04, 2022 06:58 AM IST
As many as 27 Muslims were denied entry to the college for wearing hijab on Thursday, even though the Karnataka government has not issued any uniform code for pre-university colleges.
The incident in Kundapur is the fifth incident of religious intolerance in educational institution since December 28, last year. (HT File)
The incident in Kundapur is the fifth incident of religious intolerance in educational institution since December 28, last year. (HT File)
By, Bengaluru

“We have exams in two months. Why are you ruining our future? You should have made these rules earlier,” pleaded a student standing at the gates of the government pre-university in Kundapur in Udupi.

As many as 27 Muslims were denied entry to the college for wearing hijab on Thursday, even though the Karnataka government has not issued any uniform code for pre-university colleges. The decision not to allow hijab were taken after more than 100 students at the college took out a protest wearing saffron shawls, against allowing Muslim students to wear hijab.

When the principal asked the students to remove their hijab and attend classes, an argument ensued with the students pointing out that there is no government order banning the hijab in Kundapur government college.

The principal of the college, Ramakrishna, said that he was acting based on the direction of the college development committee president and Kundapur BJP MLA Halady Srinivas Shetty. The principal said that Shetty directed him not to allow any sort of additional attire other than the specified uniform.

Including these students at the Kundapur college, at least 30 students have been denied entry to classes for wearing a hijab in Karnataka as on Thursday. For over a month now six students at the government pre-university college in Udupi have not been allowed to enter classes for wearing hijab.

The incident in Kundapur is the fifth incident of religious intolerance in educational institution since December 28, last year. Apart from the two colleges that denied entry to the Muslim students, protests have been held in two other colleges against hijabs and in one school the principal was suspended after students allegedly offered Friday namaz in school.

On January 6, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members from Pompei College in Mangaluru wore saffron scarves inside the college premises to protest students who wear the hijab inside the college. A similar protest was held at a government college in Balagadi Chikkamagaluru on January 10.

On January 28, the education department in Karnataka suspended the headmistress of Balechangappa government higher primary school in Kolar district for allowing Muslim students to offer namaz inside the school premises.

In these cases, action from the college or the district administration has been a result of the protest by the Hindutva organisations. The statement from the college management too reflected this. On Wednesday, Yashpal Suvarna, a BJP leader and vice president of the college administrative committee of the Udupi institute where six students have been denied entry said that the issue could be stopped “through Hindu organizations within five minutes.”

“We know that they (Muslim organisations) are creating chaos to challenge us. We know how to answer them through Hindu organizations. Since I have to speak here only as a representative of the administrative committee of the college, I’m not expressing my views as a member of a Hindu organization,” he told media. It wasn’t immediately clear what chaos had been created and by which Muslim organizations.

“Students should respect male teachers like their own parent. Thinking that he is an unknown male is not right. The MLA and college administrative committee have requested the parents of the six girls (that their children not wear hijab) several times. We also gave the option of online education. But still, the students are challenging us,” he said.

The matter has already reached the courts. A Muslim student on Monday filed a writ petition in Karnataka high court (HC) challenging the decision of the Government Pre-University College in Udupi to bar six students from attending classes for wearing hijab. The petition was filed by one of the six students through a lawyer. In the petition, the student argued that wearing a hijab is a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution of India and is essential for practising her religion.

The petition is scheduled for hearing on February 8.

Even though the students have claimed that the right to practice their religion and the right to education is a fundamental rights, the government has made its decision clear over the last month.

On Wednesday, the Minister for Ports, Fisheries and Inland Water Transport and Udupi district in-charge S Angara said that different education institutions cannot have different dress codes, and everyone has to follow the prescribed dress code. Angara said that he is waiting for a report from the government committee on the issue. He would hold discussions with the district administration on the issue before arriving at a decision. “Till then, the status quo should prevail.”

The hijab controversy is not about uniforms, a social activist said. “Coastal Karnataka has been a bastion of the BJP and the RSS because of communal politics. Dividing people into religious lines has always been key for the BJP, and also for the Muslim parties like the SDPI. What is disturbing is that students are being dragged into this politic,” added this person who asked not to be named.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.

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