India hijab row: Authorities shuts schools, colleges for three days

Amid an anti-hijab campaign in the Indian state of Karnataka, authorities have decided to shut colleges and high schools for three days.

The controversy started after the Government Pre University College in Kundapur stopped 20 girls from entering campus. The principal himself closed the gates on the students donning the hijab. The girls were seen pleading with the principal reminding him that their exams are just two months away.

The Chief Minister of the state, Basavaraj Bommai, said today: “I appeal to all the students, teachers and management of schools and colleges as well as people of Karnataka to maintain peace and harmony. I have ordered the closure of all high schools and colleges for the next three days. All concerned are requested to cooperate.”

The Muslim students petitioned the state’s court insisting that the hijab is part of their faith.

The decision came after the Advocate General, Prabhuling Navadagi, who was appearing on behalf of the Karnataka state, opposed the interim relief that would have allowed students to wear hijabs in colleges.

He said: “An interim order at this stage will amount to allowing the petition. The petitions are misconceived. They have questioned the government. Each institution has been given autonomy. The state does not make a decision. Therefore, prima facie, a case is not made out. Children must attend the class adhering to the dress code prescribed by the college. There are large judgements, which say that hijab does not form an integral part of the religious practice. The test, that if they don’t practise the religion itself goes.”

Appearing for the petitioners, Advocate Sanjay Hegde, argued: “The AG says we have not prescribed/proscribed any uniform. The next question is supposing that the government order is interpreted by the CDC as not prescribing then the question does not arise. But if it is considered so by College Development Committee (CDC) then the question arises. There is nothing in Karnataka Education Act, which deals with uniforms. I went up and down. I did not find anything.”

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The controversies over the hijab ban spilt over to at least five other colleges in the state as well. Over the last month colleges in Chikkamagaluru, Mangaluru, Shivamogga, and two colleges in Kundapur have been marred with similar controversies.

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