Karnataka has been taken by storm over the Hijab row in schools and colleges. It started in December 2021, with one Government PU college in Udupi district barring girl students from wearing the Muslim headscarf – Hijab – inside classrooms. The girls decided to protest the decision of the college administration.
Since then, the Hijab controversy has spilled to other colleges in the state, snowballing into communally charged protests – with Hijab-wearing girls on the one side demanding entry into education institutions, and saffron shawl-wearing group of students on the other, demanding otherwise.
The move has given rise to the question of whether the right to wear a Hijab is constitutionally protected or not, inside educational institutions that dictate a uniform.
WHAT KARNATAKA HIGH COURT SAID
Now, the matter has reached the Karnataka High Court after Muslim girl students filed a petition seeking clarity. The Karnataka government shut schools and colleges for three days following the unrest, till the High Court gives its decision.
I appeal to all the students, teachers and management of schools and colleges as well as people of karnataka to maintain peace and harmony. I have ordered closure of all high schools and colleges for next three days. All concerned are requested to cooperate.— Basavaraj S Bommai (@BSBommai) February 8, 2022
On February 9, 2022, the single-judge bench of Justice Krishan Dixit, hearing the case, urged that the matter needs the consideration of a larger bench.
Advocate Devadatt Kamat appearing for the petitioners asked the court to allow the students to back to school following their faith and wearing the Hijab, while the matter is sent to a larger bench – an interim relief.
Prabhuling Navadgi, Advocate General appearing for the State government told the court that students need to adhere to the dress code prescribed by the college. On February 8, the state government had told the court that it doesn’t want to interfere with religious beliefs or take the side of any one group, but that educational institutions are not places to profess any particular religion.
Karnataka Hijab protest. Photo: Getty Images
So far, no interim relief in the controversy has been provided by the High Court and the matter is being referred to a larger bench.
"Having regard to the enormity of questions of importance which are debated, the court is of the considered opinion that the papers be put at the hand of Chief Justice to decide if a larger bench can be constituted in the subject matter," Justice Dixit noted in the order.
The court also discussed two other cases on Hijab - one given by the Kerala High Court in 2016, and the other by the Madras High Court. Kerala HC had declared the Hijab as an essential part of Islam and allowed two girl students to appear for CBSE-AIPMT examinations wearing it.
Madras HC had also said that while purdah was not essential to the Islam religion, covering of the head by scarf was 'obligatory'.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN KARNATAKA?
Photo: Getty Images
Meanwhile, protests or gatherings of any kind within a 200-metre radius of any school, PU colleges, degree colleges or other similar educational institutions in Bengaluru has been banned for two weeks.
In Shivamogga, the unrest teetered towards violence with the police saying that some students hurled stones at college premises.
Following the controversy, the BJP-ruled Karnataka government issued an order stating, “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 state government also opened an investigation into some of the girls who started the protest over hijab claiming that they have ‘links’ to political organisations.
Not just Karnataka, the debate has reached other BJP-ruled states and UTs such as Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry.
On the other hand, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra slammed those forbidding girls from entering educational institutions wearing the Hijab, saying that 'it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear'.
Whether it is a bikini, a ghoonghat, a pair of jeans or a hijab, it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear. This right is GUARANTEED by the Indian constitution. Stop harassing women. #ladkihoonladsaktihoon— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) February 9, 2022
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai also weighed in on the controversy, saying that 'refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying'.
“College is forcing us to choose between studies and the hijab”.Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying. Objectification of women persists — for wearing less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalisation of Muslim women. https://t.co/UGfuLWAR8I— Malala (@Malala) February 8, 2022