Students from different cities in Karnataka arrived at colleges campuses on Monday (February 7) wearing saffron scarves and the hijab though it has been banned in colleges and schools by a recent government order.
The students of two colleges, Shanteshwar PU College and GRB Degree College in Indi town in the BJP-dominated, communally sensitive Vijayapura district attended their classes wearing saffron scarves and shawls on Monday. They were ostensibly protesting against the girl students being allowed to attend the schools and colleges in their hijabs.
An emergency meeting was called by the administrative boards of both colleges and they declared a holiday. This was done to avert a crisis and the students were directed to come to college wearing the uniform according to the government order. Students turned up in this banned hijab and saffron scarves in government colleges in places such as Udupi, Vijayapura, Davanagere, Chikkaballapura and Mandya as well.
These developments come a day ahead of a Karnataka High Court hearing on
the hijab issue.
“Nobody should try to disrupt the peace and should follow the circular which
the government has issued. The High Court is hearing the case tomorrow and
depending on that, we will decide the next course of action,” Karnataka Chief
Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters in New Delhi where he is on an official
The controversy began last month at a women’s pre-university college in Udupi
when a few Muslim students, who were not allowed to wear their hijab during
classes, staged a protest against the decision. The row soon spread to other
junior colleges in the district while in neighbouring Chikmagalur, boys at a
government college staged a protest demanding that they be allowed to wear
saffron scarves if Muslim girls could wear headscarves.
Government order over wearing uniforms
Due to the controversy snowballing into a major crisis, the Karnataka government has passed an order under Section 133 of the Karnataka Education Act 1983, stipulating that all students should ”wear the uniform provided by all government schools in the state”. While private schools will have to follow the dress code laid down by their respective governing bodies.
This formal order was issued by the Department of Pre-University Education (DPUE), which stated that government schools and PU colleges will have mandatory uniforms. Meanwhile, college dress codes will be determined by the management board of the College Development Committee (CDC) governing a particular college.
However, if no code has been outlined, the uniform must be such that it maintains equality and unity and should not contribute in disrupting public order, the order added.
Trouble in Udupi district
Students in Venkataramana College in Kundapur, Udupi district, too flaunted saffron scarves/shawls and had to be stopped by a sub-inspector from Kundapur police station from entering the college premises. The principal made it clear that students wearing saffron gear or the hijab will not be permitted inside the campus.
In the midst of this row, trouble is brewing in different quarters of the district. Miscreants had allegedly threatened to kill BJP leader Raheem Uchil for condemning a few organisations for stirring up the hijab row.
Uchil, leader of BJP Minority Morcha and also President of Karnataka Byari Literature, has filed a police complaint in this matter at Pandeshwara Police station in Dakshina Kannada district.
Further, two persons have been taken into custody by the Udupi police for brandishing knives during the hijab-saffron shawl protest on February 5. The police have launched a search operation for three other persons spotted with weapons at the student’s protest.
Kundapur police have registered a case and investigations have begun. The intelligence agencies and the Education Department are keeping a close watch over the disturbing events regarding the hijab row in the state.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru’s civic agency, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), fearing that the hijab row may spread to the capital has quickly started distributing uniforms, shoes and books to students.
Students knock on the doors of the Karnataka High Court
In the last week of January, five girl students from Udupi moved the Karnataka
High Court in the matter. Their petition seeking directions from the government and education department to allow them to wear hijab and attend classes, will be heard on Tuesday (February 8).
(Inputs from Ajay Sukumaran)