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Karnataka hijab row: What's the controversy all about?

An order issued by the Department for Pre-University Education, making uniforms compulsory in PU colleges, triggered a row



Students of government Pre-University college in Kundapur town wearing hijab arrive at their college in Udupi district in India's Karnataka state on February 7, 2022. Photo: AFP
Students of government Pre-University college in Kundapur town wearing hijab arrive at their college in Udupi district in India's Karnataka state on February 7, 2022. Photo: AFP
by

A Staff Reporter

Published: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 10:56 AM

Last updated: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 10:57 AM

Karnataka, India’s south Indian state, is battling a communal crisis that has led to legal intervention and also attracted international attention in the past few days.

How did it all begin?

On February 5, an order was issued by the Karnataka government’s Department for Pre-University (PU) Education that made uniforms compulsory in PU colleges. It has argued that a ban on headscarves or hijabs for students is not a violation of the right to practise their religion.

The order triggered a row as Karnataka, which is ruled by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), shut high schools and colleges for three days.

Row deepens

On Tuesday, the row deepened and got international attention after Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai weighed in and called for a “stop to the marginalisation of Muslim women in India”.

Yousafzai tweeted: “Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying…Objectification of women persists — for wearing less or more.”

Also, on Tuesday viral videos showed a woman being heckled by a mob of young men shouting slogans. Heated arguments also ensued between students wearing hijabs and saffron shawls.

Karnataka High Court intervenes

On Wednesday, the Karnataka High Court, which was hearing two petitions filed on behalf of some of the Muslim women, urged the chief justice to set up a larger bench to deliberate the matter.

The decision was taken following protests by six students at a government-run college in Karnataka’s Udupi district over wearing hijabs spread to other colleges.

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Hindus ‘flex’ saffron muscles

Several Hindu students joined in the issue and showed up wearing saffron — the colour seen as a symbol for the Hindu-majority Indians — to protest against Muslim women wearing hijabs.

Earlier, too, the issue had flared up, but this time round it gained momentum when photographs of the women protesters in Udupi went viral.

A video had surfaced last week that depicted gates were shut on a group of hijab-clad students at a PU college in Kundapur in Udupi district, which instantly triggered the outrage.

What is the Karnataka government saying?

Karnataka Education Minister Nagesh BC has supported college authorities for their stand on a ban on both saffron scarves and headscarves on campuses.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai has urged students and others to maintain “peace and harmony”.


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