The incident on Thursday occurred at Bhandarkars’ Arts and Science College at Kundapur in Udupi where authorities cited the government’s order and college guidelines on students’ uniform to keep the girls out. The students said they have been attending classes in headscarves so far without any objection, but the principal did not relent.
State home minister Araga Jnanendra said students weren’t allowed to wear either hijab or saffron shawls to college, referring to instances of anti-hijab protests in some institutions. “No one should come to college to practise their religion; the college is a place where all students should learn together with a feeling of oneness,” he said.
“There are religious organisations who think otherwise, I have asked police to keep a watch on them,” Jnanendra added. “We will not spare elements which come in the way of the country’s unity.”
Education minister BC Nagesh specified that “naqab, burqa, hijab, saffron or green shawls” are prohibited in classrooms and wearing the stipulated uniform is compulsory. Udupi deputy commissioner M Kurma Rao said college principals have been asked to follow government directives on uniform.
The National Human Rights Commission has written to the district administration, seeking a report on girls in hijab being stopped at the gate to Bhandarkars’ college.
The six students of Government PU College for Girls at the epicentre of the hijab controversy, meanwhile, continued to protest outside their institution, demanding permission to wear headscarves in the classroom. The state government has set up a high-level committee to decide on the matter.
One of the two petitions that will be heard by the high court on February 8 have been filed by five of the protesting students. Another student has separately filed a similar plea, seeking restoration of her “fundamental right” to wear attire consonant with her faith. Both petitions accuse the college authorities and others of “shaming” students in hijab by invoking their religious identity.
The petitioners argue that hijab is part of religious and social culture, and wearing it does not come in the way of college discipline and education.
“From the last week of December 2021, after the exam, the class teacher doesn’t allow petitioner-students to attend the class and… candidly inform (sic) them either to remove their headscarf or get permission from the principal through their parents. Even when their parents came to college to speak to the principal, they compelled them to wait for whole day without meeting. The conduct of the authorities appears to frustrate the petitioners and their parents and compel them to concede before them,” says one of the petitions.