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A Ban on Hijab in Karnataka Schools Leads to Protests

The Karnataka Government stated in its statement of objections that it was not in favour of any particular student or group

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA. Mumbai: The decision to ban Muslim girl students wearing hijab, a head covering, from campus in certain Karnataka schools and colleges has sparked a controversy, with mixed reactions.

The Karnataka Government recently banned the hijab in junior colleges and asked girl students to adhere to the dress code which they had agreed while seeking admissions. 

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The order of the education department (pre-university) invoking Section 133 (2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, stated that students will have to wear the dress chosen by the college development committee or the appellate committee of the administrative board of pre-university colleges which come under the pre-university education department.

However, following the issuance of the order, there have been anti- and pro-ban protests, and the police have imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in certain areas. Gatherings and protests of any kind are prohibited within a 200-meter radius of educational institutions.

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Nonetheless, the protests continued. Those in favour of the ban wore saffron scarves. At one of the campuses, some students attempted to furl the saffron flag.

As a result, Karnataka police arrested 15 people on Wednesday on charges of violating peace and harmony, primarily in the districts of Shivamogga and Bagalkot.

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Some of the students also filed a petition in court. In response, Karnataka Chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai announced the closure of all schools and colleges in the state for the next three days given the escalating protest, on Tuesday.

While hearing the petition (Resham v State of Karnataka and Ors), Justice Krishna S Dixit opined that it was necessary to refer the matter to a larger bench. Accordingly, the matter will be heard by a full bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi on Thursday.

The Karnataka Government stated in its statement of objections that it was not in favour of any particular student or group, nor was it interested in interfering with religious beliefs.

However, the government’s primary concern remained the preservation of uniformity, which it claimed was essential to an educational institution. Aside from that, educational institutions are not places to practice any particular religion.

Protests in Mumbai

In Mumbai, Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray when contacted opined that, “Where there is a prescribed uniform in schools/colleges, it should be followed. Only education should be the focus at the centers of education. Religious or political issues should not be brought to schools/colleges”.

However, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen(AIMIM) MP Imtiyaz Jaleel from Aurangabad, said that going by the Constitution there should be freedom to wear the dress as per the choice. He also appealed to non-Muslim sisters to come together and wear hijab in support of the Muslim students. “The beauty of India is its unity in diversity,” he added.

Similarly, some Muslim girls in Mumbai protested the ban on hijab saying that it provides them more security and one should not interfere with religion. If need be they are prepared to give up education and even jobs, they claimed.

A signature campaign in support of the hijab was carried out in Madanpura in South Mumbai and Bhiwandi near Mumbai, amid the ongoing controversy over wearing hijab in colleges of Karnataka.

The “Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan”, Mumbai, in a statement said that “Denying entry to Muslims students in hijab violates their fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution, hence this discrimination must stop. 

Singling out hijab for criticism is unfair and discriminatory and we want this discrimination against Muslim girls in hijab to stop. The Constitution grants the Right to Religious Freedom as well as the Right to Education, and the girls cannot be denied the education because they choose to wear hijab. 

While the college authorities are free to decide their own rules, they cannot violate fundamental rights. The parents would not permit the girls to go to college without hijab and the authorities would deny them entry because of hijab. In either case, girls’ education is bound to suffer.

Karnataka’s situation

However, different situations prevailed in Karnataka colleges. Speaking to the Transcontinental Times, Prof Shailendra Raikar of Kanakadas Shikshana Samiti’s Arts, Commerce & Science College, located in Gadag in North Karnataka, said that in his college a separate room for girl students has been provided. 

“The students change their dress and attend classes with other students. There is no demand for wearing hijab and as such the issue doesn’t arise. However our college has been closed for three days for students given the Government order,” he added.

Vinay Kolvekar a trader from Davanagere said that although there have been incidents of stone-pelting and consequent lathi-charge and bursting of tear gas shells in Udupi, Shivamogga, Bagalkote, and other parts by police, the situation was calm and the people were not bothered about the hijab and such things.

BJP MP from North Karnataka and former Karnataka Chief Minister and twice the union minister in the Modi cabinet, D V Sadananda Gowda told the Transcontinental Times that there is nothing like “Hindu-Muslim divide” because Bharat is one. (India is one) But people should follow the rules. Now, this matter is sub-judice”.

Ashish, a seasoned media professional who has handled many campaigns of the Karnataka Government said that “the disputes between different communities in different pockets of Karnataka are going on for the ages. “The Muslim dominance enters Karnataka from Kasargod in neighbouring Karnataka. It traverses via Mangalore, Manipal, and Udipi and penetrates other areas of Karnataka. There are land disputes and in the process, smaller shrines are demolished.”

“So much so that even churches are covered with the strings of green light bulbs, along with mosques, during Eid. Besides a fight for separate “Tulunadu” ( a separate state for Tulu-speaking people) is already on. Besides, there is a dispute between different political leaders which adds a fuel to the fire. Bangalore is the only cosmopolitan city,” he added.

Also Read: “Let Children Study”, Says Karnataka CM Ahead of HC Hearing in Hijab vs Saffron Row


  • Raju Vernekar

    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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