Students hoist saffron flag as hijab protest spreads in Karnataka, HC commences hearing

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The State Government is learnt to have asked the district education authorities to declare holiday to schools and pre-university colleges if protests over the ban on attire other than student uniform goes out of control.

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Already, Shivamogga district administration has declared a holiday for two days after sections of students hoisted a saffron flag atop their college and got into a scuffle with students supporting hijab. The authorities also clamped prohibitory orders in Shivamogga town.

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday commenced hearing on petitions challenging the Feb 5 notification that makes it compulsory for students to wear prescribed uniform to classes.

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Tension prevailed at many places in Karnataka including Shivamogga and Harihara districts after warring student groups scuffled over the hijab controversy and pelted stones. Police took some students into custody at a few places.

Disturbances were reported also from Mangaluru, Udupi, Bagalkot and Kodagu as more and more people identified themselves either with pro-hijab or anti-hijab factions. Even girls were seen joining boys sporting saffron scarves demanding that they too be allowed into classes.

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In Delhi, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai appealed to students to maintain calm as the issue was before the high court, and the government will go by the court order.

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar urged the government to declare holiday for schools and colleges for a week and conduct online classes till the situation eases. In Goa, Opposition leader Siddaramaiah too made similar demands.

At a few other places, sections of Dalit students wore blue shawals around their neck to show their support to the campaign in favour of hijab.

At Kundapur, the management authorities at the government pre-university college, however, have decided to allow girls with hijab into the college premises in a bid to diffuse tensions. Those who remove hijabs can enter classrooms, but those who refuse have to sit in a separate room.

Congress lawmaker Priyank Kharge, in a tweet, wondered if this was how the CM would want to see our state’s students’ future by posting a video of the Indian flag being lowered. “The BJP is ready to sabotage the future of our students to stay in power. Unfortunate that our state wants to go the UP way instead of leading the nation to prosperity,” he said.

Groups of Muslim girls gathered in front of their colleges at many places urging the government to drop the government notification on compulsory uniform issued on Saturday.

The Congress, which is the principal Opposition party, has thrown its weight behind protestors, endorsing the demands by sections of Muslim girls.

The Karnataka government February 5 notification makes it compulsory for students to wear only such uniforms as prescribed by the government, or their respective school or college managements.

The government order says students of government schools will wear uniforms as decided by the government and students of private institutions will sport uniforms prescribed by their respective management. In respect of pre-university colleges, students will wear uniforms prescribed by the college development committee or the management concerned.

The government notification cites orders and judgments in this regard pronounced by high courts of various states and the Supreme Court, according to which, an educational institution asking students to comply with a uniform code was well within its rights, and would in no way violate a student’s constitutional rights. It also cited a specific judgement by the Bombay High Court in which it upheld an educational institution’s order requiring its students not to wear hijab to schools and ruled that an institution asking students not to wear hijab to classes was not a violation of his or her constitutional rights.

Karnataka’s notification says its own law, the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, requires students to conduct themselves as members of one family. But of late it has noticed instances of students wearing dresses in conformity with their religious practices. This disturbed unity and equality in schools and colleges, it said.

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