What started a week ago in a small college in Udupi, Karnataka, is now snowballing into a communal issue. A group of college students were banned entry into their college because they donned the head scarf. “However, we have always worn it. Why object now?” questioned the petitioners, adding that no such discrimination was mentioned at the time of admission.
Ever since it first stared, other colleges and schools, in Karnataka towns from Chikmanglur to Bagalkot, Shivmogga to Kundapur, have flared up over the hijab row. Monday saw a huge turnout of students wearing saffron scarves and with the situation taking an unruly turn, the state administration has decided to shut down all educational institutions for three days starting Wednesday. A reopening next week is subject to normalcy returning in the state.
The protestors are largely two groups: minority groups for Hijab versus those who object to the head scarves. Five petitioners have approached the state high court and the matter has been underway since Tuesday afternoon. The honourable court maintained that “it will not get swayed by passions or emotions,” as it hears petitions against the ban on Hijab in schools and colleges.
Meanwhile, the government, made it clear that entry into classrooms with Hijab will not be allowed. CM Basavaraj Bommai made urged students to ensure harmony is maintained. “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,” he tweeted.
The Karnataka state government, had on February 5, issued an order making uniforms prescribed by it or managements of private institutions mandatory for its students at schools and pre-university colleges in the state.
The Congress has accused the ruling BJP of instigating right wing elements in the matter. Truly, the fight between fundamental rights and uniformity in educational institutions, religious tolerance versus impingement on others’ beliefs and practices, personal choice versus political diktat, takes a whole new spectrum with the ongoing Hijab row.