Why are Girls Wearing Hijab Barred from Attending Classes in Karnataka's Udupi?
By: Annanya Rana
It has been four weeks since students wearing hijabs were barred from attending classes at a government college in Karnataka’s Udupi district. The state-run college decided to ban hijabs and saffron scarves following a parent-teacher meeting in December.
This move had been unofficially enforced since around November end after a group of around 50 Hindu students had turned up wearing saffron scarves and asked their female Muslim classmates not to wear hijabs during classes.
The new mandate has resulted in at least six Muslim women being denied entry into their classes at the government-run Pre-University College for Girls just outside Udupi city for the past month. The students have been protesting outside the campus and have spoken to reporters about their ordeal.
The students were called in for a meeting to persuade them to change their minds. But they didn’t. “Wearing a hijab is their fundamental right. They are acting like we are criminals, we are only asking for the headscarf, not Naqaab or Abaya,” one of the protesting women told The Wire.
One of the girls’ fathers (under the condition of anonymity) said to The Indian Express, “If the government thinks that wearing hijab is a crime, then I will not allow my daughter to attend her final examinations. It's better she should stay at home. We want our daughter to study well and excel in life but why are her rights being snatched?”
On the other hand, the professors and the college administration are adamant about their new rule. Justifying the move, one of the college teachers told The Federal, “Burqa and hijab are not allowed in the classroom. They should not be allowed in the interest of equality.”
The college principal, Rudre Gowda, said to The Indian Express, “The rule of hijab has been in force since the college was established in 1985. According to the rule, the students are allowed to wear the hijab till they reach their respective classrooms. As soon as class starts they have to remove the hijab. This issue started in December. We don’t know why.”
However, the protesting students and several Muslim alumni affirmed to various media outlets that the hijab was allowed in class till a few years ago. But for the past few years, they have been opposing it.
Karnataka’s education minister has said that there is no uniform code in the state but has asked the protesting students to back down in the “interest of their further education.”
Meanwhile, Hindu Jagarana Vedika (a Karnataka based Hindutva group) secretary Prakash Kukkehalli has warned that all of the college’s Hindu students will attend classes wearing saffron shawls if the hijab is allowed.
The college development committee, which BJP MLA K Raghupathi Bhat heads, has now recommended that those students who wear the hijab to college opt for online classes until the BJP state government resolves the issue.
India’s Constitution guarantees people the freedom to practise their religion as a fundamental right, subject to certain restrictions. Previously, the courts have held that the right to wear a hijab would fall under the protections guaranteed by the Constitution.
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