Karnataka: Muslim boys join protest as more colleges ban the hijab | Bengaluru - Hindustan Times
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Karnataka: Muslim boys join protest as more colleges ban the hijab

By, Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Feb 05, 2022 06:25 AM IST

Since the first such incident was reported from Udupi on December 28, 2021, a total of five education institutes have denied entry to women students wearing the hijab

Three more colleges in Karnataka’s Udupi district on Friday denied entry to female Muslim students for wearing the hijab, and some male Muslim students sat on a dharna in solidarity with their classmates, marking an escalation in the row that has sparked widespread condemnation from activists and opposition parties but received support from local authorities and the state government.

Karnataka: Hijab row escalates, 3 more colleges deny students entry
Karnataka: Hijab row escalates, 3 more colleges deny students entry

Since the first such incident was reported from Udupi on December 28, 2021, a total of five education institutes – three government-run colleges and two private institutes – have denied entry to women students wearing the hijab. On Friday, police was deployed for the first time at one of the institutions to prevent any untoward incident, officials said.

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The women and activists say that the action is a violation of their constitutional rights but the government and the authorities say that rules prevent any display of religious symbols in educational institutions. Some Hindu groups, who are opposed to the Muslim women wearing the hijab in the classroom, have also mobilised local students to wear saffron scarves to institutions.

The first of the incidents on Friday was reported from Bhandarkar’s College in Udupi. According to students, when they arrived at the college in the morning, students wearing the hijab were stopped at the gate by college authorities in the presence of a large police contingent. Officials of Kundapur police said police were deployed after they received a call from the college’s principal.

After being denied entry, Muslim girl students at outside the college gate in protest. This resulted in some Hindu students taking out a protest wearing saffron shawls. “As there were more than 100 students and some parents, we deployed additional force. The crowd was dispersed by afternoon,” said the senior police officer.

Students at Bhandarkar’s College said that, on February 1, officials of the college called a meeting of all Muslim students and asked them to stop wearing the hijab. “The principal and other lecturers asked us to come to college without wearing hijab. The students said that if anyone had objections, they should bring their parents. When they came with their parents, local MLA Haladi Srinivas Shetty and others were present and no proper answers were given and the next day notice was given by the college authorities that a hijab is not allowed in the college,” one of the students told media gathered outside the college.

The second incident was reported from Byndoor government pre-university (PU) college, where 12 female students wearing the hijab and 150 Hindu male students wearing saffron shawls were barred from entering the classroom. College authorities insisted that they wear the proper uniform, and asked the students to remove their hijab and shawls before entering classes.

The third incident was reported from BB Hegde College in Kundapur, a private college, which allowed students wearing hijab and shawls to attend classes on Thursday, did not allow entry to either group on Friday.

The row began on December 28 after six students were not allowed to enter class for not wearing a hijab.

At the Udupi government PU college for girls and Kundarpur government college, students continued to protest against the decision to bar them from classes from wearing the hijab.

Officials of the district administration said that after a notice from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the deputy commissioner of Udupi, Kurma Rao M formed a committee headed by Kundapur sub-divisional officer K Raju and another headed by Udupi deputy director of PU education. The members of the committee visited the college on Wednesday and are expected to submit a report soon.

With the issue snowballing into a major controversy, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai held a meeting with primary and secondary education minister B C Nagesh and top government officials on Friday. On February 8, the Karnataka high court will hear the petitions filed by some students from the Udupi PU college questioning the restriction on the hijab.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah threw his weight behind the Muslim students on their right to wear the hijab to educational institutions and hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. But Nagesh said “hidden hands” were fanning the controversy in an attempt to embarrass the government. “Until January first week, rules were followed duly by all students, but thereafter what mischief by someone, led them to take such a stand and boycott classes, we are unable to understand,” he said.

On Friday, Bhandarkar’s College officials told students in with the hijab that they were not allowed to enter because of government orders. The students said no such government order had been issued and the recent circular merely said that status quo should be maintained.

On Thursday, days after students at a government college in Udupi moved the Karnataka High Court challenging ban on hijab in the college, a new controversy has broken out in the government PU college in the district. Students at a government pre-university college in Kundapura in Udupi have been protesting wearing saffron shawls protesting Muslim students wearing Hijab in the classes.

Following the protest, a meeting of the parents’ students from the Muslim students in the college was chaired by Kundapur MLA Haladi Srinivas Shetty on Wednesday, however, it failed to resolve the controversy.

The students also countered the college’s claim by quoting from the college rulebook, which permits the wearing of the hijab. “Girl students are permitted to wear the scarf on campus. However, the colour of the scarf should match the dupatta, and no student is allowed to wear any other cloth inside the campus including the college canteen,” the rulebook said.

Principal Narayan Shetty said he had no option but to call the police as two groups – one demanding the hijab, another opposing it – had gathered outside the college. “The situation was getting out of hand, and I called the police. Such incidents don’t create an environment for imparting education and those who come here should have only one agenda, that is gaining knowledge,” said Shetty.

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