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‘We are losing our friends’, say Udupi Hindu students about Muslim classmates in hijab row

While a section of Hindu and Muslim students are in conflict over dress code, others are also worried about losing out on classes as colleges declare holidays to avoid protests.

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Udupi: “My best friend is Muslim. She has always worn a (head)scarf to college — and today she is stuck there,” a 19-year old Hindu student at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, Udupi, tells ThePrint.

She’s pointing to a throng of hijab-clad students protesting outside the college, facing off against another crowd wearing saffron scarves — both clamouring for “justice” amid the ongoing row over the hijab in Karnataka’s educational institutions. 

“In this Hindu-Muslim fight, we will lose our Muslim friends. This is not right. We come to college to make friends and study. It’s painful to see our own classmates protest against each other,” another student tells ThePrint.

Both these young women are first-year B.Com. students who don’t want to reveal their names. 

Protests broke out at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College Tuesday when a group of Hindu students arrived on campus, sporting saffron scarves and headgear, demanding that Muslim students remove their hijabs. A group of hijab-clad Muslim students walking towards the gate at the same time sent tempers soaring. 

Within minutes, saffron-clad protesters began scaling the college’s walls to demonstrate inside the campus, twirling their scarves in the air as more hijab-wearing women congregated. Soon — in a trend that has students worried about missing out on their education —  the college was forced to declare a holiday despite scheduled laboratory exams for senior classes. 

“It infuriates me to see such protests in our college. We are neither for the hijab nor against it, but we should be united as students. Outsiders are coming and distributing saffron scarves,” alleges a third woman student, also in first-year of B.Com. like the others quoted before, and who doesn’t want to reveal her name either.

Udupi and Chikkamagaluru districts have been at the epicentre of the ongoing row, which began in December last year when Muslim students at Udupi Women’s Pre-University college (where 11th and 12th standard-equivalent classes take place in Karnataka) protested after they were barred from entering classrooms wearing their headscarves. Amid retaliatory protests by Hindus sporting saffron scarves, several schools and colleges shut their gates to hijab-wearing students. 

The Karnataka government on 5 February issued an order mandating a dress code in all schools and colleges, with a ban on clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public law and order”. The Karnataka High Court held a hearing on a petition by Muslim students to allow them to wear hijabs Tuesday.

‘Losing out on education’

As the row spreads across Karnataka, students who aren’t involved are concerned that they’re losing out on classes, with colleges declaring holidays to avoid protests. 

“On 14 February, we have internal exams. We don’t know if we will even be able to take it if this continues. We don’t support hijabs or saffron scarves, but if they continue this, it will affect our exams as well as studies,” Niharika, a first-year BCA student at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, tells The Print.

Shraddha Bhat, another BCA student, says, “If the hijab is not allowed, then students shouldn’t wear it — but that doesn’t mean I should come to class wearing saffron scarves either. Classes were supposed to start at 10 am, but now we don’t know when we will go to class.” 

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)


Also read: Udupi Muslim girls hope HC will let them wear hijab to class, principal deems them ‘beyond help’


 

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