College suspends 6 girls for wearing headscarf in Dakshina Kannada
A degree college in Dakshina Kannada district has suspended for a week six students who wore their dupattas like hijabs in their classrooms, amid rekindled protests on campuses against the ban on the Islamic headscarf at government educational institutions in Karnataka.
Another institution, the Mangalore University College, denied entry to 16 hijab-wearing students on Thursday, after shutting out a dozen students for the same reason late last month.
State-run schools, pre-university colleges and some degree colleges have, nudged by the state government, imposed a strict uniform code, virtually banning the hijab. Upheld by Karnataka High Court, the ban has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
The girls suspended by the Government First Grade College at Uppinangady are first-year BCom students who attended their classes on Saturday covering their heads with their dupattas, which are part of the uniform but are meant to be worn over the shoulder.
“The decision to suspend them was taken at a staff meeting that took into consideration the Karnataka High Court order against wearing any religious clothing in classrooms,” college principal Shekhar M.B. told The Telegraph on Thursday.
Asked what was wrong with covering one’s head with one’s dupatta, the principal said it was a disciplinary issue. “We took the decision after conducting an inquiry. Wearing a dupatta as a hijab is a disciplinary issue as no one is allowed to tweak the uniform as they please,” he said.
The students can return to their classes on Monday, June 6, provided they observe the uniform rules, he said.
Shekhar said 96 of the 854 students at the co-educational college were Muslim girls and that only the now-suspended students had insisted on wearing the hijab in their classrooms.
The principal said the parents of three of the suspended girls had met him on Wednesday and agreed to cooperate. “I expect the other parents to come and meet me this week,” he said.
On Thursday, Mangalore University College principal Anasuya Rai rejected demands from 16 students to be allowed to wear the hijab in their classrooms, citing the high court order.
Earlier on Tuesday, after a dozen hijab-clad students were denied entry by the college, Dakshina Kannada deputy commissioner Rajendra K.V. had asked them to abide by the rules.
The hijab controversy had broken out late last December when the Government Pre-University College in Udupi prevented eight hijab-wearing girls from entering their classrooms, and the students protested by coming every day and spending their class hours in the corridors.
It became a state-wide issue with many Muslim students asserting their right to wear the hijab, while students with Sangh parivar leanings turned up in saffron scarves in a counter protest. At some places, hijab-wearing students were heckled. Sometimes the protests turned violent.
On February 5, the state’s BJP government empowered its educational institutions to prescribe and enforce uniforms. Most government institutions did, virtually banning the hijab.
Hearing petitions from Muslim students, the high court on March 15 ruled that the headscarf was not part of essential religious practice in Islam, and that the government’s February 5 order was not arbitrary. The verdict has been challenged in the apex court.
There was a lull in protests after the high court order but the controversy has been reignited, with many students attempting to defy the ban after the colleges reopened on May 12.