Students at some Karnataka schools were directed to remove their hijabs before entering the campus on Monday morning, in accordance with an interim High Court order that said educational institutions could re-open (after having been shut last week) but no religious clothing would be allowed.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI show a teacher stopping students in hijabs at the gates of a government-run school in Mandya district and ordering them to "remove that, remove that".
The video also shows some parents arguing as their children are stopped from entering the school. After a heated discussion the girls removed the hijab (and wearing just a face mask, in line with Covid protocols) and entered the school.
One man - the father of two girls - held out for a while but relented after the teacher had an extended discussion, and his children were allowed to attend school after removing their hijabs.
ANI quoted an unnamed parent as saying: "Requesting (teachers) to allow students (to wear hijabs till they reach) classrooms... can be taken off after that... but they're not allowing entry."
#WATCH | K'taka: Argument b/w parents & a teacher outside Rotary School in Mandya as she asked students to take off hijab before entering campus— ANI (@ANI) February 14, 2022
A parent says,"Requesting to allow students in classroom, hijab can be taken off after that but they're not allowing entry with hijab" pic.twitter.com/0VS57tpAw0
In Udupi district - where the controversy erupted in December- a Class 9 student at a government-run school Udupi told NDTV a classmate and she both had to remove their hijabs to attend class.
In Shivamogga 13 students - 10 from Class 10, two from Class 9 and one from Class 8 - were sent back home after they refused to remove their hijabs.
The school principal told reporters: "They (students and parents) didn't protest (when asked to remove) burqas, only hijab. We tried to convince them but they didn't follow our request, so we sent them back."
The parents said: "We brought the children to write the exam...they did not wear burqa, only hijab. Earlier all (students) used to wear hijabs... there was no problem. Today teachers stopped them... we cannot let them take the hijab off, that is why we're taking them back."
Karnataka minister Narayan Gowda, who is the in-charge for the district, told reporters seven of the students refused to sit for an exam today if they forced to remove the hijab.
"Seven students with hijabs were sitting for exams but the officers there refused permission. They insisted on being allowed to wear it... their parents were called and all seven then walked out of the exam hall and went home," he said.
Other visuals being widely shared online also show teachers (from the same school in Mandya) also being ordered to remove burqas before entering the school campus; they were shown removing the burqas by the side of the road and not inside the school building.
Karnataka schools (up to Class 10) re-opened today amid controversy over the state barring Muslim students from wearing a hijab during classes. Classes 11 and 12 are closed till Wednesday.
Petitions against the ban are being argued in the High Court, which resumes its hearing at 2.30 pm.
Last week the court said schools and colleges could reopen (shut last week by the state "to maintain peace and harmony") but no religious clothing, including hijabs, would be allowed.
The order - heavily criticised for suspending the fundamental rights of citizens at an interim stage - was restricted to institutions that have a dress code that does not permit hijabs.
Ahead of today's classes, orders banning large gatherings were announced in several districts, including Udupi, Mangaluru and Shivamogga. Police also took out flag marches in several towns.
Controversy over Muslim students barred from wearing the hijab began in December after six girls from Karnataka's Udupi district voiced their concerns. They then approached the High Court.
Since then it has snowballed into a significant matter, with the Supreme Court also approached.
However, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said: "We will interfere only at an appropriate time."
Protests have escalated rapidly over the past few weeks; last week a young student in Mandya was heckled by saffron-waving male aggressors shouting 'Jai Shri Ram'.
Separately there were also incidents of stone-throwing and police firing teargas to break up crowds.
Apart from political debates with communal overtones in India, the row has also been flagged by international figures like Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and French footballer Paul Pogba.
With input from ANI