Karnataka minister says won't permit hijab-clad invigilators: ‘option to take..’
Karnataka minister BC Nagesh said that the government decided not to task teachers wearing a hijab to invigilate examinations as it wouldn’t be ‘morally right’ for teachers to wear hijab, while the students aren’t allowed as per the orders of the Karnataka high court.
Karnataka Primary and Secondary education minister BC Nagesh on Monday said the government has decided against allowing teachers wearing hijab to take part in the invigilation process during the Class 10 examinations.
Talking to the media, the minister said that the government decided not to task teachers wearing a hijab to invigilate examinations as it wouldn’t be ‘morally right’ for teachers to wear hijab, while the students aren’t allowed as per the orders of the Karnataka high court.
“As hijab is not allowed inside examination hall for students, to be morally right, we’re not forcing teachers who insist on wearing hijab to take up exam duty. We gave them the option to take exam duty or not,” said the minister for primary and secondary education.
During the hearing of the petition contesting the hijab ban in the state, Karnataka high court had pointed out that the question of uniforms applies only to those schools that have a uniform prescribed by the management and it will not apply to teachers.
The minister’s decision not to allow teachers to wear a hijab inside the classroom has kicked off a row, with activists claiming the government is discriminating against Muslim teachers. “The statement of the education minister is against the guidelines of the court and is discriminatory. He has misinterpreted the court order in the past well,” said Vinaya S, a Bengaluru-based lawyer and activist.
On Saturday, The All-India Lawyers’ Association For Justice, an organisation of lawyers and law students, had issued a legal notice to Nagesh for his alleged misleading statements over the Karnataka high court’s order on the uniform rules and wearing of the hijab.
The legal notice was referring to a statement made by the minister on March 28, in which he claimed that students will not be allowed to wear hijabs while writing the ongoing class 10 examinations. The notice said the minister’s statement contradicts the government order (GO) of March 25 that said uniforms that are fixed by the government or private schools are to be worn.
As per the March 25 order, if a school or college allows wearing hijab, those students can wear them during the examinations. However, Nagesh had said hijabs will not be allowed in any examination halls and students wearing hijabs will not be allowed to enter the exam hall.
“The judgment did not impose a blanket ban on hijab. The judgement upheld the G.O. dated 05.02.2022, which specified that any uniform that had been fixed by the government or a private school in accordance with the law has to be adhered to,” the legal notice stated.
Meanwhile, the teachers who were suspended for allowing students wearing hijab inside the class, are crying foul over the government’s decision. On March 30, at least seven teachers across Karnataka were suspended for allegedly permitting students wearing hijabs to appear for class X board (SSLC) examinations. Officials said that a probe will be ordered against these teachers.
KB Bajanthri, one of the suspended teachers said that he wasn’t aware that a student had entered the hall with a hijab. Talking to the media, he said the student entered the class while he was busy sorting the question papers for distribution. “It was just around 10 am when media persons entered the premises and captured the video through the window,” said the teacher.
Responding to the teacher’s statement, senior education department officials said that a formal inquiry will be conducted into the matter, where the teachers will get to present their version of the events.
On February 17, a teacher at a pre-university college in Karnataka’s Tumakuru has quit her job, alleging the institute’s authorities asked her to take lectures without wearing a hijab. The teacher, who has worked as a guest lecturer at Jain Pre-University College Tumakuru for the last three years, termed the restrictions on hijab “undemocratic” and added that she had delivered lectures wearing the headscarf all this while.