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Day 1 of Karnataka Class 10 board exams: Govt says most adhere to hijab ban, 4 ‘walk out’

Minister B.C. Nagesh says ‘99.99%’ students take exam without head scarf. Karnataka government had made uniforms compulsory for Class 10 board exams, which began Monday.

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka state board examinations for Class 10 students began with a strict dress code in place Monday.

Amid an ongoing row over the wearing of the hijab in educational institutions, state Primary and Secondary Education Minister B.C. Nagesh said “99.99 per cent” of the students appeared for their exams without the head scarf. He also mentioned that four students “staged a walkout” in separate incidents, which are yet to be verified.

Among them was a student in Ilkal of Bagalkot district, who allegedly refused to remove her hijab and returned from the exam centre without appearing for her test, according to the secondary education department. “Students who miss the exams will not be allowed to take supplementary exam,” Nagesh had warned Friday.

Many female Muslim students were asked to remove their burqas and hijabs on arrival at the exam centres. Separate rooms had been set up inside the centres for the same. 

In some districts like Dakshin Kannada the local administration allowed students to continue wearing the hijab if it was part of their prescribed school uniform.

The Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) exams under the Karnataka state board began days after the state government issued an order making uniforms compulsory for examinees. This included a ban on the hijab and other religious clothing in examination centres for government school students.

The hijab row has been a burning issue in the state over the past few months. Pre-university colleges across the state have seen massive protests and debate over the wearing of the garment in classrooms.

On 15 March, the Karnataka High Court held that the wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith. 

The bench upheld an order of a committee at the Udupi Pre-University (PU) Government College prescribing school uniforms that banned the hijab in classes, as well as the state government’s 5 February order extending its support to the restriction.

Also Read: What is an ‘essential religious practice’, and why hijab didn’t make the cut for Karnataka HC

‘Vindicated,’ says minister

After the end of the exams Monday, Minister B.C. Nagesh told reporters that they stand “vindicated”.

“We have been insisting that the row over hijab was by a handful of people, 99.99 per cent of our students wrote their exams without hijab,” he said. “Only some four students staged a walkout, but we need to verify if they are students at all or outsiders who came to examination centres to disrupt the process.”

In Mysuru’s T. Narasipura, a 16-year-old student suffered a heart attack and passed away in the examination hall.

Around 8.69 lakh students have enrolled to take the Class 10 state board exams, which will end on 11 April. According to data provided by the state government, around 8.48 lakh students appeared for the exams Monday, and there were 20,994 absentees.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: ‘Hindus have become aware’: How Hindutva groups are boycotting Muslims at Karnataka temple fairs


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