Hijab-clad students segregated at Karnataka college | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Hijab-clad students segregated at Karnataka college

BySharan Poovanna, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Feb 07, 2022 10:58 PM IST

It was from this school, BB Hegde College in Kundapur (like in some other states, Karnataka refers to institutions offering the equivalent of classes 11 and 12 as colleges), where the controversy started in January.

A government school in Karnataka’s Udupi district on Monday allowed hijab-wearing girls to enter to prevent a possible tussle and kept them in a classroom without allowing them to take lessons, even as protests on the issue spread to four other districts in the state.

The hijab controversy continues to grip coastal Karnataka’s Udupi district, with several schools on Monday seeing protests by girls wearing hijabs. (HT Photo)
The hijab controversy continues to grip coastal Karnataka’s Udupi district, with several schools on Monday seeing protests by girls wearing hijabs. (HT Photo)

It was from this school, BB Hegde College in Kundapur (like in some other states, Karnataka refers to institutions offering the equivalent of classes 11 and 12 as colleges), where the controversy started in January.

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“We went inside the college, they let us sit in one classroom, and allowed us to go to the washroom. Teachers did not come and take classes. The principal came and asked us if we would remove our hijabs, and we said no. They asked us for our signatures but we gave our names for attendance. Then they took the contact details of our parents and said that it would be better for us to come to college after the Karnataka high court verdict,” one of the 25 students said, requesting anonymity.

Karnataka school education minister B C Nagesh confirmed the development, saying the protests on road were creating a problem. “So, they were asked to sit in a room, but under no circumstances were they allowed to sit in the classrooms (with hijab), nor were separate classes held for them. Indian culture has given women a respectable position. Hence, a separate room.”

The separate arrangement is only for a day as everyone is waiting for a hearing in the Karnataka high court on Tuesday, he said. The court is expected to start hearing a clutch of petitions against schools not allowing girls wearing headscarves to attend classes.

The state government has enforced a uniform dress code in government-run schools and asked school management committees of private institutions to decide on dress. It also quoted the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, to say the hijab is not allowed inside schools. On Sunday, Nagesh said students should adhere to the government’s order on school dresses.

The hijab controversy continues to grip coastal Karnataka’s Udupi district, with several schools on Monday seeing protests by girls wearing hijabs, students wearing saffron scarfs, and Dalit students wearing blue scarfs in solidarity with the hijab-wearing girls. So far, protests have been reported from seven schools in Udupi, including two private schools.

The incident was triggered when six girls of the government school in Udupi district were denied entry after they started wearing headscarves. Tilll late December, they were not wearing hijabs, the school’s administrators insist.

Once the girls refused to remove their hijab, students from the majority community started demanding they too be allowed inside with saffron shawls. And the issue grew.

Today, several schools have become battlegrounds in the assertion of the respective faiths of students.

Another dimension was added to the controversy on Monday when at another government school in Chikmagaluru, about 160 km from Udupi, students belonging to the Dalit community came to the school wearing blue scarfs and raised Jai Bhim slogans, expressing their support for the Muslim girls.

They came face to face with students wearing saffron scarfs, but timely intervention by school staff and policemen deployed there prevented any untoward incident.

In Udupi, which has a sizeable Muslim population, the issue has escalated with students belong to both the communities protesting. “If they are allowed to wear a hijab, we should be allowed inside with saffron shawls because our community is important for us,” said Ayush Poojary, a class 11 student from a private school in Kundapur who was part of the protests on Monday.

In Venkataramana Pre University college, about a kilometre from the government college, some 25-30 students tried to enter the premises with saffron shawls, only to be stopped by the authorities. Students were allowed inside the college only after they took off the shawls.

“Breaking news from Karnataka, or heartbreaking news? Since when is religious segregation permitted in our country for secular activities like general education? Does this college have no copy of the Constitution?” Shashi Tharoor, the Congress parliamentarian from neighbouring Kerala, said in a post on Twitter.

The visuals of young Muslim girls being denied entry into schools by teachers has attracted national and international attention, questioning the secular credentials of the Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, as well as the growing radicalism among young people.

The BJP is trying to create unrest among the students and the public in Karnataka over the hijab issue, Karnataka pradesh Congress committee president D K Shivakumar alleged on Monday.

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