The hijab-row triggered protests in Karnataka spread across the state on Tuesday, with campuses witnessing ‘conflict-like’ situations marked by stone-pelting incidents, use of force by police and the Muslim girls standing their ground for wearing the headscarves, prompting calls for peace and calm both by the government and the High Court, which is now looking into the students’ plea for their right to their hijab.
As the issue snowballed into a major controversy, the government declared three days holidays for educational institutions across the state, even as voices across the country came in for and against the hijab issue.
Protests erupted at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in Udupi after a large group of students wearing saffron stoles and headgears raised slogans in the college campus as hijab clad Muslim girls were staging a protest demanding justice.
In Mandya, visuals of a group of boys heckling a hijab-clad girl went viral, even as support came pouring in for her on social media.
The student, who asserted the protest demanding the girls’ right to wear hijab would continue, said she had the support of her teachers and that those after her, apparently boys with saffron shawls, were “outsiders.”
“Everyone in the class…our principal and lecturers have supported us,” she told NDTV.
Her friends were of the opinion that those who had heckled here were outsiders, she added.
Tension prevailed at some educational institutions in Udupi, Shivamogga and Bagalkote, forcing the police and authorities to intervene.
Stone petting incident was reported near a college in Bagalkote’s Rabkavi Banhatti and a few students even tried to barge into the campus, whom police dispersed using a mild force. Couple of students and a teacher are said to be injured in the incident.
Similar incidents of stone pelting and injuries had also been reported from Shivamogga district, and police had to intervene to bring the tense situation under control and they have detained some people including students. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC has been clamped in Shivamogga city for two days on Tuesday.
Some students even tried to hoist the saffron flag at the college premises in Shivamogga.
Similar protests have been reported at educational institions in Mandya, Vijayapura, Gadag, Dakshina Kannada, Davangere and Chitradurga, among other districts.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister B C Nagesh said that out of about 5,000 plus Pre-University colleges that function, in about 10-12 institutions, conflict-like situations have been created, along with some degree colleges, due to hijab and saffron shawl controversy.
“At the time when the authorities were about to convince the (hijab wearing) students in Udupi, some elements spread it to Kundapur and other parts of the state….political leaders’ statements have also helped it spread to other parts,” he said.
In response to a question, he said, according to a report, the Campus Front of India (CFI) is said to have incited the row, and it will be investigated.
Chief Minister Bommai said: “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,” Bommai, who is in New Delhi said in a tweet.
Speaking to reporters in the national capital, he appealed to the Opposition and the people concerned not to escalate the situation by making “provocative” statements and to wait for the High Court order.
The state government is going by the law on dress code and the same stand has been put before the court, he said.
“Let’s wait for the judiciary’s decision and we will abide by whatever it says,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka High Court also appealed to the students and people to maintain peace and tranquility and said only some mischievous people were keeping the issue burning.
After hearing the petitions filed by some students studying in a Government Pre-University College for Girls in the coastal town of Udupi, the matter was posted for Wednesday.
“This Court requests the students and the public to maintain peace and tranquility. This Court has full faith in the wisdom and virtue of public at large and hopes that the same would be put to practice,” Justice Krishna S Dixit said.
He also pointed out that agitations, sloganeering and students attacking each other were not good.
Noting that religious forces behind such incidents have to be quelled and everyone should think about the country, state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said in a video message, “we should all stand together as brothers, as the children of this country. Uniform is a sign of equality. Educational institutions are not the place for practicing our religion or to showcase our costumes.”
Amidst the raging row, last week, the state government had issued an order making uniforms prescribed by it or management of private institutions mandatory for its students at schools and pre-university colleges across the state.
The issue that initially began in January at a government PU College in Udupi where six students, who attended classes wearing head-scarf in violation of the stipulated dress code were asked to leave the campus, has spread to different parts of the state, with Hindu students too responding by turning up in saffron shawls.
Such saffron-clad students are also being barred from entering classes.
The row has also taken a political colour, as the ruling has BJP stood strongly in support of uniform related rules being enforced by educational institutions, calling the headscarf, a religious symbol, while the opposition Congress has come out in support of Muslim girls.
Senior Congress leader and leader of opposition in the state assembly Siddaramaiah earlier today urged the government to declare holiday for schools and colleges in the interest of the students and start on-line classes.
AIMIM leader and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi backed the women students.
“The young Muslim women students in Karnataka have demonstrated great courage under extreme provocation from Hindutva mobs. Their conduct in pursuit of their constitutional rights has been exemplary. The State has been complicit in this evil behaviour,” he said in a tweet.
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti made allegations of polarisation ahead of the UP Assembly elections.
Referring to the heckling of the Muslim girl, she said, harassing her in broad daylight showed “such goons enjoy patronage from those in power.”
“Such incidents shouldn’t be seen in isolation as BJP hopes that it helps to polarise in UP elections,” she tweeted.
However, a Minister from the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh said hijab was not part of the uniform and therefore it should be banned.
MP School Education Minister Inder Singh Parmar said that a “dress code” will be implemented in schools in that state to ensure that a sense of equality prevails among students.
He alleged that “systematic efforts” are being made to disturb the country’s environment on the issue of wearing ‘hijabs’ or headscarves.
Replying to a query on protests being held in Karnataka for and against wearing hijabs, Parmar said, “Hijab is not part of the uniform, so I think it should be banned”.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)