The hijab row in Karnataka has been raging for more than a month, with protests and counter demonstrations by Muslim and Hindu students. The Karnataka High Court is hearing petitions on the issue, but has for now asked students to wear uniform from refrain from wearing hijab, saffron scarves or any other piece of cloth till the time the issue is resolved.
Here's everything you need to know about the hijab row in Karnataka:
What is the issue about?
The hijab row came to the fore on January 1 at Government PU College in Udupi, where six female students claimed that they were not allowed to enter classrooms wearing hijab. The students held a press conference, where they said that permission was sought but college authorities refused to let them enter the classroom with their faces covered.
They started protest against college authorities, which soon snowballed into a statewide issue. Reports of similar protests emerged from other towns in Karnataka. These protests and counter demonstrations involving saffron scarves have since spread to other states.
Several videos of the protests emerged, which showed students of the two communities engaging in verbal spats. One such video from a college in Mandya showed a Muslim girl standing her ground as a large number of saffron scarf wearing boys heckled her and shouted slogans of "Jai Shri Ram". She shouted back at them: "Allah hu Akbar!"
What is the college's stand?
Rudre Gowda, the principal of the Udupi college, said that students used to wear Hijab to the campus and entered the classroom after removing the scarves.
“The institution did not have any rule on Hijab-wearing as such and since no one used to wear it to the classroom in the last 35 years. The students who came with the demand had the backing of outside forces,” Gowda said.
Matter reaches court
Several petitions were filed in the Karnataka High Court on January 31 in which Muslim students sought the right to wear Hijabs in classrooms under Article 14, 19 and 25 of the Constitution of India. The court heard it for the first time on February 8.
The High Court, in its interim order pending consideration of all such petitions, last week restrained all the students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab and any religious flag within the classroom.
What the government says
The Karnataka government justified the ban on hijab inside classrooms under its 1983 Education Act. In a February 5 order, it said that under Section 133 of the act, the government reserves the right to issue appropriate directions to schools and colleges to ensure maintenance of public order.
It further said that in colleges that fall under the Karnataka Board of Pre-University Education, dress code prescribed by the College Development Committee or the administrative supervisory committee must be followed. If the administration does not fix a dress code, clothes that do not threaten equality, unity, and public order must be worn.
On Thursday, the state government said that the hijab row persists only in eight high schools and pre-university colleges of the total 75,000 such institutions in the state. The government has expressed confidence of resolving the issue.
In an attempt to calm tensions, the Karnataka government temporarily closed schools last week but ordered their gradual reopening this week.
Even after the High Court interim order, the controversy refuses to die down as some students remain adamant to be allowed to attend classes with 'hijab' and 'burqa' on Thursday as well.
Difference between hijab and burqa
The hijab is a headscarf that covers the hair, neck, and sometimes a woman's shoulders. The burqa, on the other hand, is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.