Hijab Row Spreads to More Universities in Karnataka and Threatens Academic Environment

BENGALURU: Controversy surrounding the wearing of ‘hijab’ at a college in Udupi district, Karnataka has spread to other colleges in the state, raising concerns within the Department of Education as well as parents and students.

The ‘hijab versus saffron shawl’ issue surfaced on Wednesday at Kundapur Pre-University College in Udupi district and M. Vishweshwaraiah Government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati of Shivamogga district.

As 27 Muslim female students from Kundapur Pre-University College were taking hijab lessons, Hindu female students came with saffron shawls into the classrooms.

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The meeting, which was held with parents of Muslim students, chaired by local BJP MP Haladi Srinivas Shetty, could not reach consensus on the issue.

Shetty has now sought the intervention of the state’s education minister, BC Nagesh, to handle the issue.

The minister made it clear to the college authorities that students can only come to the classrooms in uniform and that neither hijab nor saffron shawl will be allowed.

However, Hindu Jagaran Vedike leader Jagadish Kukkehalli said Hindu students were willing to avoid saffron shawls only if Muslim girls attended classes without a hijab. If Muslim girls continue to wear the hijab, Hindu female students will attend classes wearing saffron shawls, he added.

A tense situation also reigned at the premises of Mr Vishweshwaraiah Government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati of Shivamogga district on Wednesday as Hindu students came in saffron shawls to protest against Muslim students wearing hijab.

College authorities said the uniform code has been in place since 2010. Students are required to come to class in uniform only. A separate room has been provided for Muslim students to change their hijab and come to class in uniform.

The students demand that while the hijab and burqa are allowed, saffron shawls must also be allowed in classrooms. As the state enters the election year with a general election due to be held in 2023, the ruling BJP government is handling the issue with caution given its sensitivity.

The state government has set up a high-level committee to decide whether to allow students to wear the hijab in classrooms. Until the report is submitted, the government has asked students to attend classes in uniform without wearing the hijab.

Meanwhile, the political evolution takes a communal turn threatening the academic atmosphere.

The Campus Front of India (CFI), the student wing of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), is holding seminars on how the BJP government is flouting the constitutional right of Muslim girls by not allowing them to wear the hijab.

Hindu organizations have intervened and said that while Muslim students come to school in hijab, Hindu students will also wear saffron shawls when attending class.

With Sri Ram Sena founder Pramod Muthalik urging the state government to expel students who insist on wearing the hijab from colleges sparking controversy, the issue is set to take a community turn.

With two months left for the review, the issue threatens to snowball into major controversy.

The ‘hijab versus saffron shawl’ issue surfaced on Wednesday at Kundapur Pre-University College in Udupi district and M. Vishweshwaraiah Government Arts and Commerce College in Bhadravati of Shivamogga district.

The hijab issue has been discussed internationally, which has tarnished the image of the state known for its progressive administration.

Udupi College students have approached the Karnataka High Court over the matter. Udupi BJP MLA asked students not to enter the college campus if they do not avoid hijab and if students come to college in hijab they are asked not to attend classes.

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