Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh on Saturday appeared to defend the action of some students, who recently wore saffron scarves in a college in Chikkamagaluru district to protest against sporting of hijab by a few Muslim women inside the classroom, terming it as a reaction. The management of Balagadi Government Degree College in Koppa taluk of Chikkamagaluru district had initially banned wearing both saffron scarves and hijab but later allowed it till January 10 when the ”betterment committee” is slated to take a call on the issue.
Wondering what prompted the Muslim women to sport hijab inside the classroom, Nagesh said in a video message, “Now as a reaction, some of the students are putting orange (saffron) shawls on them. It’s their reaction. As you know, whenever there is an action there will be a reaction.” He also charged that some organisations want to create ”differences” and take advantage. In a government pre-university college in the coastal town of Udupi, six Muslim girls were barred from attending the classes since January 1 for wearing hijab as the dress was against prescribed norms of the college.
The Campus Front of India and Girls Islamic Organisation of India had lodged a complaint with the Karnataka State Minorities Commission chairman Abdul Azeem to look into the matter. The matter was resolved after four days in the college betterment committee meeting where it was decided that no one would be allowed to attend classes with hijab.
About the Udupi incident, Nagesh wondered, ”The students of a pre-university college in Udupi decided to use scarves (hijab) and not to follow the discipline of the college. I don’t know what made them to do like that.” Talking to PTI, KSMC chairman Abdul Azeem said the matter in Udupi has been resolved as it was decided in the college betterment committee that the girls can enter college wearing scarves but they cannot attend the class putting them on. He said the Campus Front of India had given a memorandum to him asking his intervention to allow the women in Udupi to attend classes with headscarves.
After receiving a complaint from Udupi students, he contacted the Wakf officer of Udupi, the district minority welfare officer, deputy director of the PU Board as well as the superintendent of police of Udupi. According to him, there was an arrangement since 1985 that hijab will not be allowed inside the classroom. ”If they want to come with hijab, they can come with hijab to the college premises but not inside the classrooms,” Azeem clarified.
He added that he has also written to minister Nagesh urging him to examine the issue ”constitutionally”. The Campus Front of India state committee member Mohammed Zuber K in his complaint to the KSMC chairman said the students have been denied entry into the class for wearing hijab “which is a symbol of our modesty, identity and an important part of our religious observance”. He also said the constitutional rights of the women to advocate practice and propagate their faith was violated.