It has been three weeks since a few Muslim girls studying at a government college in Karnataka’s Udupi have been allowed in class, with the freedom to practice their religion at the core of the issue.
The students want to wear a hijab inside classrooms but the college administration has refused permission, insisting that all students abide by a uniform dress code.
The Udupi Assistant Commissioner is meeting the principal and protesting students today.
The state government, however, said it “has not fixed a uniform (dress) code” but urged the students to nevertheless follow the more than three decade old regulation of the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC), saying “94 students have no problem… Kindly follow dress code”.
Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh also accused the opposition of politicising the issue after the students sought help from the PFI-affiliated Campus Front of India.
“There is only one reason for this trigger… Assembly Election is due in 2023. They (the opposition) have no good ideas planned to woo voters… trying to polarise. The government has not fixed a uniform code… we accept that. (But) in 1985 the SDMC mandated a uniform dress code and they (the college authorities) want to stick to that,” Mr Nagesh said.
“The uniform code is in place to avoid (complications)… This is has been followed for the past 36 years. Maximum numbers of students are Muslims and 94 have no problem… It is only six who have an issue now. We just have one request – kindly follow the dress code,” the minister said.
On Sunday Nasir Pasha, the General-Secretary of the PFI’s Karnataka unit, had accused some colleges of creating controversy over the hijab issue, and violating the religious freedom of Muslims.
Earlier this month, after the controversy broke out in Udupi, students at a college in Koppa district came to classes wearing saffron-coloured scarves to protest the wearing of hijabs.
One of the students told news agency PTI: “Three years ago a similar controversy erupted… decided no one should come to college wearing hijab but for the past few days some women are wearing it…”
With input from PTI