Udupi girls cite college rules that allow hijab if colour matches with uniform

Can students be denied entry into classrooms for putting on headscarves? Unresolved for over a month, Karnataka high court to hear the case on Tuesday amidst heated debates on dress code for students

Udupi girls cite college rules that allow hijab if colour matches with uniform

Naheed Ataulla

It’s been a strength of India that everyone is free to wear what they want. If the hijab is disallowed, what about the Sikh turban? The Hindu’s forehead mark? The Christian’s crucifix? Let the girls in. Let them study. Let THEM decide.

Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP

Why is Yogi Adityanath allowed to sit in the CM’s office in a robe that he wears because he heads a ‘Math’ ? Shouldn’t he leave his religion at home?

Ashok Pandey, Author

You allow Brahmin boys to wear sacred thread with the uniform, right? Though it’s by no means “essential” to the Hindu faith & is in fact part of a discriminatory tradition?

Kavita Krishnan, CPI(ML)

Even as there is outrage at colleges in Udupi and other districts in Karnataka refusing to allow hijab or a headscarf, Hindutva outfits have been arguing that in many ‘convents’ Hindu girls are not allowed to put on a ‘bindi’ or Vibhuti. They have threatened that if hijab is allowed, they would mobilise Hindu students to go to the classroom with saffron scarves.

The hijab (headscarf) row at the Government Women’s Pre-University college in the temple town of Udupi (Karnataka), has remained unresolved for over a month and the Karnataka High Court will now hear petitions challenging the ban on ‘hijab’ on Tuesday, February 8. The Karnataka’s BJP Government is likely to argue in favour of the ban.

On December 28, 2021, when the college reopened after a year of Covid-induced shutdown, eight of the 70 Muslim girls in the college walked in wearing the hijab. They were barred entry into the classroom following which two students dropped out of the protest.

The six other Muslim girls refused to discard the hijab inside the classroom and approached the Karnataka High Court, while the college authorities have denied them entry into the campus.

Another petition filed by advocate Tahir Mohammed said every academic year the state government issues guidelines to educational institutions. The guidelines issued in July 2021, under chapter 6 mentioned there is no uniform code in PU colleges. And,if any college insists strict action should be taken. The High Court has admitted both the petitions and posted the hearing to 8 February as the state advocate-general sought time to file objections.

With the Campus Front of India (CFI), the student arm of Popular Front of India, extending support to the girls, the issue has acquired political overtones and battlelines were drawn. Sadik Jarathar, State Secretary, CFI, cites the 1985 Government order on uniform, which is being cited by college authorities. He claims the rules make no mention of head scarves. “I have photographs of students wearing hijab and attending classes in earlier years. But now the college has restricted students from even greeting each other by saying Salaam or speaking in the local Beary dialect,” he claimed. On the other hand Sri Rama Sene, a Right-Wing group has demanded that transfer certificates be issued to the defiant students.

Students meanwhile have produced the college rules which suggest that hijabs are allowed if the colour matches the uniform. If that is true, then the colleges seem to be succumbing to pressure by Hindutva outfits.

National Human Rights Commission also intervened and issued a notice to Karnataka government on January 27. “Facts of the case are disturbing. The allegations made in the complaint are serious in nature involving Right to Education. The case, therefore, involves a grave violation of the human rights of the victim students,’’ the notice sent to Udupi Deputy Commissioner and Principal Secretary, Department of Higher Education said. They were given a month’s time to reply

In two months from now, exams are scheduled to begin and offline classes started from December 28, but both sides have stood their ground. The six girls have declined the College Development Committee headed by Udupi BJP MLA K. Raghupathi’s offer to opt for online classes, if they want to wear the hijab.

Udupi girls cite college rules that allow hijab if colour matches with uniform

The college authorities claim to be abiding by the 1985 GO, which stipulated uniform for the students and hijab was not part of it. “If we allow headscarves inside classrooms, other students have threatened to put on saffron shawls. It’s a girls’ college with a majority of the faculty being women. So where is the difficulty in discarding headscarves in the classroom?

“In a local Christian college here, girls are not allowed to wear bangles or bindi. Parents are complaining that the academic atmosphere is being vitiated because of six students in a college with a strength of 1,000,’’ he added.

Bhat accused CFI and Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI) of instigating students to defy the college. When the academic year commenced, he claimed, parents and their wards had signed an agreement that they would remove the hijab inside the classroom.

The hijab controversy had its fall out in Chikkamagaluru and Dakshina Kannada districts, where the BJP is strong with RSS’ student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members donning saffron scarves inside colleges.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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