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Karnataka hijab petitioners turned away from exam centre, likely to lose academic year

Abhishek Hiremath, accused of making an inflammatory post that sparked communal unrest in Hubballi, allowed to take his exam Friday.

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Bengaluru: As the board exams for students of second pre-university college (PUC) — the equivalent of Class 12 — commenced in Karnataka Friday, the shadow of the hijab row continued. 

Two of the petitioners in the hijab case — Aliya Assadi and Resham — were sent away from exam centres Friday for wearing the Islamic headscarf. Two others — Ayesha Almas and Hazra Shifa — didn’t turn up at all in light of the state’s restrictions on hijab. 

With this, all six petitioners in the case have been unable to take their exams. The remaining two — Muskan Zainab and Shafa — are first PU students who missed their exams in March. 

Aliya Assadi and Resham arrived at the examination centre in Udupi with their hall tickets but were not allowed into the exam room after they refused to remove their hijab, according to purported videos from the campus.

As the students urged that they be allowed to write their exam in a hijab, exam officials and college authorities cited the government’s decision and the high court’s order to deny them permission.

The hijab controversy stems from an Udupi government PUC’s bar on the headscarf in classrooms last year. The state government subsequently barred all clothing of religious nature — including hijab and saffron scarves — in government institutions. When some students approached the Karnataka High Court, it upheld the restrictions, saying in its order last month that wearing of the hijab wasn’t an essential religious practice in Islam.

At a press conference earlier this week, Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister B.C. Nagesh said “all students must follow rules on uniform”. 

“Those wearing hijab won’t be allowed to write the exam. Hijabs won’t be permitted even for invigilators,” he added, saying students who miss the exam over the dress code will not be allowed to take a re-exam or supplementary exams either.

More than 6.84 lakh students across Karnataka were registered to take the second PUC board exams.

Abdul Shukur, the father of Muskan Zainab, who missed her first PUC exam in March, spoke of the rule’s impact on his daughter’s education.  

“My daughter’s entire academic year is lost. We can neither give up on our faith nor on her education,” he said. 

“We are contemplating finding a college that would allow hijab. She will have to redo the whole year’s course perhaps, but we don’t know yet,” he added. “Today, the  other girls too were disallowed from writing their exams.”

Another face of the hijab row — Bibi Muskan Khan, a second-year commerce student from a private college in Mandya who stood up to hecklers in February — was also allegedly not allowed to take her exam in March. 

“The college management till February had no issues allowing our daughter to wear a hijab but she wasn’t granted permission to take exams in a hijab,” her uncle Azeem Syed told ThePrint. “Despite our requests to the college authorities, she wasn’t allowed to write her exam wearing a hijab. She didn’t take the final exam at all.” 

Under arrest, but allowed to take exam

Meanwhile, Abhishek Hiremath, whose alleged inflammatory post on WhatsApp led to communal tensions in Hubballi, was allowed to take his exam Friday despite being under arrest. 

A local court in Hubballi rejected Hiremath’s bail plea but allowed him to write the second PU exam. He was escorted by police to his examination centre Friday. 

Following Hiremath’s post, a mob of Muslim community members attacked the Old Hubballi police station, injuring policemen and damaging police vehicles. 

In six cases registered in connection with the violence, 134 people, including leaders of AIMIM, have been arrested by police.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: BJP backs Bommai on Karnataka hijab ban, but leaders worry PM Modi’s global image could be hit


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