Hijab political rank, wearing it in school flouts protocol: Karnataka BC Minister Nagesh


Bengaluru: Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh on Thursday claimed that the hijab controversy at an educational institution in the state was politically motivated with the election in mind.

Six Muslim female students at a government college in Udupi district, Karnataka, have accused authorities of barring them from entering classrooms for the past three weeks because they wore hijab.

Responding to the controversy, Nagesh said: “Elections will be held next year. Since there is no problem (for the opposition), they rake this affair and make it a polemic, in order to create a religious discord.

“I agree that there is no fixed uniform code for schools and colleges. But SDMC (School Development and Monitoring Committee) in 1985 gave a directive for the uniform, which should be followed by people. These guidelines emerged when the BJP was not in power,” he added.

Minister Nagesh said that nearly 100 Muslim students were studying in this government college, but none except these six students raised concerns. Speaking to a news channel later, the education minister said wearing the hijab is tantamount to indiscipline. “Educational institutes are not the places to practice your religion,” he said.

On Tuesday, senior education department officials met with the director of the education institute to settle the matter, however, protesting students said their version of events had not been heard. “We were hoping that at the meeting someone would understand our concerns, but they sided with the institute. They didn’t hear our point of view,” said one of the students.

One of the girls, Alia Banu, said the college was looking for leave requests due to poor health.

On Monday, Aliya Assadi, one of the six students, said she was threatened with being expelled from class if she did not remove her hijab. “One day we walked into the classroom, but the teacher’s response was, ‘If you don’t come out of the classroom, I’m going to kick you out,'” she added.

According to the college principal, Rudra Gowda, students can wear headscarves on college premises, but not inside classrooms. The rule is being implemented to ensure consistency across classrooms, he said. “There is no provision for having the hijab as a uniform in our school rules. They can attend classes if they remove the hijab. We called their family members and discussed the matter,” Gowda.

Meanwhile, the All-India Lawyers Association For Justice has written to the state government, demanding an investigation against the college administration. “The actions of college administration and staff against students are inherently contrary to students’ fundamental rights. It is important to remember that the Constitution recognizes everyone’s right to be treated equally (article 14), to live in dignity (article 21), the right to education (article 21) and to profess the religion of his choice (article 25). The constitutional value of being able to freely profess one’s religion and live in dignity has been repeatedly emphasized by the courts in various court decisions,” reads a statement from the association.

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