As the hijab versus saffron scarves on campus clash spread in Karnataka, two colleges declared a holiday today to avoid communal trouble while another college allowed students wearing the hijab in separate classrooms.
There was also a confrontation between students wearing blue scarves and those wearing saffron scarves at a college in Chikkamagaluru, IDSG College. Students wearing saffron protested against the hijab and those wearing blue, Dalit students, backing the hijab-wearing students.
After days of protests by hijab-wearing students outside the gates, the Government Junior PU college in Kundapur in Udipi district allowed the young women on campus this morning but controversially seated them in separate classrooms without any lessons.
College officials said this was to "avoid crowding outside the gates".
The Principal, Ramakrishna GJ, reemphasised that students could attend classes only after removing the hijab. But the women remained firm that they would not remove their hijab in class.
At the Kalavara Varadaraj M Shetty Government First Grade College, Kundapur, students in hijab were sent home.
"We sent back the students back home. We had advised them to enter classes without the hijab. They refused. So we asked them to leave. We have requested them to wait for the High Court order tomorrow," said Usha Devi, Vice Principal.
When it was pointed out that some students did wear the hijab previously, before the controversy, she said: "There were a few students who used to attend classes in hijab. We did not have a problem then." She denied any pressure but said the college wanted to "avoid any issues".
In two other colleges in Vijayapura district of Karnataka, Shantheshwara PU and GRB College, many students entered wearing saffron scarves in a show of protest against their hijab-wearing fellow students.
Stepping in, the principal told the students that the Karnataka High Court would hear the case tomorrow and declared a holiday today.
The High Court will hear petitions filed by five women from a government pre-university college in Udupi, questioning hijab restrictions.
The hijab protests began last month at the Government Girls PU college in Udupi district when six students alleged that they had been barred from classes for insisting on wearing the headscarf. Right-wing groups in Udupi and Chikkamagaluru objected to Muslim girls wearing the hijab to class.
The protests spread to more colleges in Udupi and beyond, with staff banning the hijab and many students taking a confrontational position by showing up in saffron scarves and shouting slogans.
On Saturday, the state's BJP government banned clothes which it said "disturb equality, integrity and public order".
"In the event of the administrative committee not selecting a uniform, clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn," the order said.
"The education department has noticed that in some education institutions, the boys and girls have started behaving according to their religion, which hurts the equality and unity," it added.
The row has taken a political turn with the state's opposition Congress accusing the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) of trying to stir communal strife in the state.
"The constitution has given the right to practice any religion which means one can wear any clothes according to their religion. Prohibiting 'Hijab-wearing students from entering school is a violation of fundamental rights," said former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
The BJP's state president Nalin Kumar Kateel said the government would not allow hijab at educational institutions.
"There is a BJP government in this state, there is no room for hijab or any other related incidents. Schools are temples of mother Saraswathi (goddess of education); everyone should abide by rules and regulations there. Bringing religion there is not right, what students need is education, if someone can't follow rules they can choose their path elsewhere," he said last week.