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Karnataka: Hijab-Clad Students Denied Entry Again to College in Udupi District

Students, parents protest as Muslim girls denied entry on the third day. Tension persists as exams near.
Karnataka: Hijab-Clad Students Denied Entry Again to College in Udupi District

Image Courtesy: National Herald

Mangaluru: Muslim girl students, who tried to enter a government pre-university college at Kundapur in Karnataka's Udupi district wearing hijabs (headscarves), were again denied entry to the premises by authorities on Friday, the third day since the issue surfaced in the institution.

The hijab-clad students, who came along with their parents, pushed into the compound gate of the college despite a strict order given by the authorities that wearing hijabs will not be allowed as per the status quo on dress code issued by the state government.

The girls' parents also protested outside the college gate. When they entered the premises, a few boy students wearing saffron shawls started roaming around the place as a mark of protest. The boys were soon asked to remove the shawls and attend classes in the college.

In view of the tension, police personnel from Kundapur station present at the gate sent the girls’ parents away citing instructions from the government. The girls, however, continued to remain near the gate.

Meanwhile, a group of students of the government girls’ PU college at Udupi, where the hijab row first started last month, have approached the additional deputy commissioner to resolve the issue at the earliest to create a suitable environment for education in the college.

In their appeal, the girls said the final examinations are nearing and the teaching process in the college is disturbed due to the presence of police and the media. The district administration should take immediate action to solve the issue raised only by six students in the college, they said in the appeal.

The issue started in early January at the government girls’ pre-university (PU) college at Udupi, where six students attended classes wearing headscarves in violation of the dress code in classrooms.

The college had allowed hijab in the campus but not inside the classrooms. The students who protested against the directions were not allowed inside classes. The girls continued their protest by sitting outside the classrooms for about a month.

 Udupi MLA and president of the college development committee K Raghupati Bhat held talks with the parents of the protesting girls, who also insisted that their children be allowed to wear hijabs.

The school authorities later categorically announced that hijab-clad girls cannot be allowed inside the classrooms till an expert committee formed by the state government to study the issue comes out with its report. The government also gave directions to schools to maintain the status quo on dress code in PU colleges.

One of the six protesting students at the Udupi college has moved the Karnataka High Court on January 31, seeking interim relief to attend classes wearing the hijab till the issue is settled.

In her petition, the student submitted that wearing a hijab is her fundamental right guaranteed under Article 14 and 25 of the Constitution. The high court is expected to hear the case on February 8.

The incident was followed by another one at the pre-university college in Kundapur in the same district, with the authorities disallowing 28 Muslim girl students from attending classes in the college wearing hijabs, citing the government direction. The girls later protested against the order outside the classes as well.

The issue turned worse when around 100 boy students of the college wearing saffron shawls on Wednesday protested against allowing girls wearing hijabs inside classrooms.

Kundapur MLA and college development committee president Halady Srinivas Shetty, who rushed to the college, called a meeting of the girls and their parents to discuss the issue. As the parents did not relent, the meeting failed to reach a consensus.

However, the authorities stuck to the position that the government direction will be followed.

The girls, who came to the college on Thursday also, were stopped at the gate by college authorities. The issue remains unresolved as the parents are insisting on their children’s right to wear headscarves.

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