Kundapur: Amid tensions over dress code in the otherwise sleepy town of Kundapur in Karnataka’s Udupi district, a Pre-University (PU) college at the centre of the controversy has let hijab-wearing students inside its campus, but they are not allowed to attend classes or even enter classrooms. Instead, they have been put up in a different room to wait, ostensibly for the Karnataka High Court’s order. The HC will hear the matter Tuesday.
Other colleges in the town have confiscated saffron shawls from other students, and declared a holiday. And as the row over hijabs in schools spread to other Karnataka districts, groups of Dalit students came out in solidarity with Muslim students Monday.
“We have been instructed to not allow students to stand or sit outside the college gate. Hence, we have arranged for protesting students to sit inside the community hall but they will not be allowed to attend classes unless they remove hijabs,” Ramakrishna B.G., principal of the Kundapur Government PU College, told ThePrint Monday morning.
PU or junior college is how classes 11 and 12 are referred to in Karnataka. So the first PU is Class 11 and the second PU is Class 12.
Even as Ramakrishna spoke, college staff members were sticking copies of the Karnataka government’s order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public law and order” in educational institutions.
B.C. Nagesh, Karnataka’s Primary and Secondary Education Minister, was asked while addressing reporters in Mandya if schools were now allowing students in hijab to enter classrooms.
“No student wearing a hijab is being allowed into classrooms, neither are they being given special classes. Schools, because of their large-heartedness, have allowed them to sit in rooms within the campus but there will be no learning for them until they adhere to dress code,” Nagesh responded.
“Ours is Indian culture you see, not Pakistani culture, hence we don’t want to inconvenience our girl children by forcing them to stand outside college gates,” he added, stating that the government would wait for the Karnataka High Court’s order in the matter and hold further discussions.
However, the Muslim girl students insist they’ve done nothing wrong and are facing discrimination. “We haven’t started wearing hijab just yesterday or the day before as claimed. Our seniors too have worn it for years, yet we are being discriminated against,” a 16-year-old first PU student of the college told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
Scarves confiscated, holiday declared
Even as Muslim students wearing hijabs were being escorted to a restroom in Kundapur PU College, hundreds of Hindu students of Sri Venkataramana PU College in the same town, sporting saffron scarves in protest against hijabs, were stopped by the principal and police officials.
Students were allowed inside classrooms only after they removed the saffron scarves.
“The row started in our college last Thursday. On Friday, many students wore saffron scarves and shouted slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ while Muslim students sporting hijabs shouted slogans for justice. Both were not allowed in classes,” Naveen Shetty, principal, RN Shetty Composite PU college, told ThePrint.
“We have declared a holiday till Wednesday so we can wait for the high court’s order and decide on what to do next,” he said.
Shetty’s office still has stacks of saffron scarves that were confiscated from students.
Dalit students’ solidarity
As protests continued in Kundapur, a fresh ‘hijab vs saffron scarf’ row broke out in other Karnataka districts like Mandya, Davanagere, Chikmagaluru, Chikkaballapura and Kodagu.
Visuals of Dalit students sporting blue scarves shouting slogans of ‘Jai Bhim’ at IDSG Government College in Chikmagaluru went viral Monday. Groups of protesting Dalit students and others sporting saffron scarves almost clashed before college authorities intervened.
Hindu students of Mandya Government Boys’ College too wore saffron scarves to classrooms to protest against hijabs being allowed.
Meanwhile, various Muslim organisations protested against the Karnataka government in solidarity with Muslim girl students who have been denied entry into classrooms wearing hijab.
While All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led protests in Belagavi, Muslim community leaders led protests in Mandya, Hassan and Bengaluru districts. National Women’s Front, a Kozhikode-headquartered organisation, too held a press conference in Bengaluru demanding that Muslim girls be allowed to attend classes wearing hijab.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)