Bengaluru: The hijab versus saffron scarf tussle is spreading to more colleges of Karnataka, with one allegedly shutting its gates on students wearing hijabs, and Hindu students in at least two other colleges wearing saffron scarves in protest.
Officials of Kundapur’s Government PU College Thursday allegedly shut the gates on students wearing hijabs even as they pleaded that they be allowed to attend classes. The move came after all government colleges were asked to maintain ‘status quo’ on dress code by the state education department.
“There are just two more months for exams. Why are you destroying our future and lives? There was no such restriction earlier. Why have you changed the rules suddenly?” Muslim students were purportedly seen asking college principal Ramakrishna B.G. as authorities shut the gates on them, in a video that has gone viral on social media.
ThePrint sought a comment from principal Ramakrishna B.G. on the matter through calls and text messages, but did not receive a response.
Meanwhile, at the Kundapur college, more than 40 Hindu students reportedly wore saffron scarves Wednesday to protest against around 27 Muslim students wearing hijabs. Similar scenes were witnessed at Bhandarkar’s Arts and Science College, a private college in Kundapur, as well as Sir M Vishweshwaraiah Government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati of Shivamogga district.
The protests took place two days after Muslim students of the Government Pre-University (PU) College for girls in Udupi district — in two separate petitions before the Karnataka High Court — sought interim relief to attend classes wearing hijabs (headscarves), and a declaration that wearing a hijab is a fundamental right under Articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution. The students were allegedly denied entry to their college last month because they were wearing hijabs.
“We have tried to convince the students and parents that everybody is equal in an educational institution and there won’t be any discrimination. Parents and students have agreed to heed to our request,” Uma Shankar, principal of Sir M Vishweshwaraiah government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati was quoted as saying in an ANI report.
The Print also tried to reach to authorities at Bhandarkar’s Arts and Science college in Kundapur too but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
While the hijab versus saffron scarf tussle rears its head in Karnataka’s educational institutions — especially in communally sensitive districts — every now and then, the recent spate of incidents was sparked off by the Udupi Women’s PU College barring its students from attending classes in hijab last month. Protests took place in Chikmagalur and Mangaluru as a fallout.
This was anticipated, says education minister
In Karnataka, the education department at present does not have a uniform dress code for all government colleges. Colleges are allowed to frame their own rules in consultation with stakeholders. However, following the controversy, the state government decided to set up a committee to decide on dress codes for colleges.
ThePrint asked Kundapur MLA Halady Srinivas Shetty whether Government PU College had explicitly banned hijab. “For many years, a few students — maybe one or two every year — have been coming to college wearing hijabs, but never in such big numbers. There seems to be a united effort to deliberately disrupt harmony. Not just hijabs, I have asked the college authorities to not allow anyone with saffron scarves,” he said.
“Whatever rules the school development committee had made before college began needs to be adhered to. We have set up a committee to look into dress codes as an issue, and we knew this would elicit a reaction. All of this was anticipated. We have conveyed to all colleges that neither saffron scarves nor hijab will be allowed. Only prescribed dress code for every college will be allowed. Whoever is violating it is not being allowed inside,” B.C. Nagesh, state minister for primary and secondary education, told reporters Thursday.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)