No scope for the hijab, says K’taka BJP chief; govt issues fresh order

Published on Feb 05, 2022 11:36 PM IST

While invoking section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, the government said a “uniform style of clothes has to be worn compulsorily.”

A faculty member talks with the students wearing hijab, after the school authorities denied them entry for wearing a hijab or scarf, in Kundapura of Udupi district.(PTI)
A faculty member talks with the students wearing hijab, after the school authorities denied them entry for wearing a hijab or scarf, in Kundapura of Udupi district.(PTI)
By, Bengaluru

The Karnataka government on Saturday ordered a ban on clothes that disturb “equality, integrity and public order” in schools and colleges as a row over Muslim students wearing the hijab to classes continued to escalate, with opposition parties lending support to the students.

While invoking section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, the government said a “uniform style of clothes has to be worn compulsorily.”

“The private school administration can choose a uniform of their choice,” the order issued by the Karnataka education department said on Saturday. For colleges under the department of pre-university, students will be asked to follow a dress code decided by the College Management Committee (CMC), the order said. HT has seen a copy of the letter.

The CMCs are often headed by a local MLA; at threeof the colleges at the centre of the controversy, the CMCs are headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs.

The controversy erupted in January when some students in colleges in Udupi and Chikkamagaluru districts began wearing the headscarf to classes. 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.

Later, Hindu students also started attending classes wearing saffron scarves around their neck. Gradually, the issue spread to other parts of the state where Muslim girls demanded permission to attend classes wearing head scarves.

Saturday’s order said that in the event the college administration does not select a uniform, “clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn”.

Stating that a ban on hijab or headscarf was not illegal, the government order cited judgments from the Kerala, Bombay and Madras high courts, and said that courts have previously held that mandating students not to wear headscarves to attend classes without covering their heads is not a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution that provides freedom of religion.

The government order noted that the KEA-1983 had explained that all students should wear a common uniform so that they should belong to a common family and behave in a manner that there is no discrimination.

“However, the education department has noticed that in some education institutions, the boys and girls have started behaving according to their religion, which hurts the equality and unity,” the order added.

The order came hours after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday said that it will not allow the “Talibanisation” of education in the state.

BJP’s state unit president, and Dakshina Kannada MP, Nalin Kumar Kateel said: “There is a BJP government in this state, there is no room for hijab or any other related incidents. Schools are temples of mother Saraswathi (goddess of education); everyone should abide by rules and regulations there. Bringing religion there is not right, what students need is education. We will not allow Talibanisation (of the education system).”

While supporting Muslim students in the controversy, the Opposition Congress in the state has accused the BJP, and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of creating communal disharmony in the state.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the students are being robbed of their future. “By letting students’ hijab come in the way of their education, we are robbing the future of the daughters of India. Ma Saraswati gives knowledge to all. She doesn’t differentiate,” the former Congress president said in a tweet on Saturday.

Earlier on Friday, Congress leader Siddaramaiah threw his weight behind the Muslim students.

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Centre’s flagship scheme, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, the former chief minister asked: “Is he not aware of this incident?”

“The 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,” he said, urging chief minister Basavaraj Bommai to take action against those inciting disharmony.

The Karnataka high court is scheduled to hear the petitions filed by five girls studying in a Government Pre-university College in Udupi, questioning hijab restriction in college, on February 8.

On Friday, the chief minister held a meeting with law and education departments, and the government asked educational institutions to follow existing uniform related rules, until the Court comes out with an order in this regard, next week.

Speaking to the media on Saturday, Karnataka primary and secondary education minister BC Nagesh said that rules regarding uniform in educational institutes were framed in 2013 and 2018 on the basis of the Karnataka Education Act, according to which educational institutions and School Development and Monitoring Committees have the right to prescribe the uniform to its students.

“We have gone through all this and the government will make a decision soon. We have already issued a circular stating that uniforms prescribed by the SCDMs before the academic year and worn by the students until now, should be continued until the High Court’s verdict is out,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

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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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