- The Hijab ban issue has refused to die down as Muslim girls are adamant on wearing hijab to college
- Muslim girls argue that ban on Hijab violates right to freedom of religion enshrined in Constitution
- The hijab row which started last month in Udupi has now snowballed into a major controversy
"Banning hijab tantamounts to banning Quran," said counsel Vinod Kulkarni, appearing on behalf of the Muslim girls in the Hijab case, in the Karnataka High Court on Thursday amid raging controversy over the government's order that seeks to prohibit wearing hijab by students going to schools and junior colleges.
Kulkarni said poor Muslim girls are suffering because of restrictions on wearing Hijab and requested the court to pass an order allowing girls to wear Hijab on Friday, which is Jumma day for the Muslims, and during the holy month of Ramzan.
Kulkarni contended there was a "mass hysteria" in the country due to the Hijab issue. Hijab was not against health or morality, the counsel said before the full bench of the High Court.
The High Court is hearing a battery of petitions against a government order banning Hijab in schools and colleges. The matter is before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice JM Khazi which took up the case last week after a single bench referred the case to Chief Justice citing constitutional questions.
Earlier on Wednesday, chaos prevailed in several pre-university colleges in the state, which were opened after remaining shut for a week owing to the Hijab row, as the Burqa-clad Muslim students were not let in. Amid tight security with policemen deployed in and around Pre-university colleges at many sensitive places, the day saw a section of Muslim students remaining adamant not to remove the Burqa, let alone Hijab, the Islamic scarves.
In Udupi district, pre-university and degree colleges reopened on Wednesday even as police are keeping a vigil around the colleges where prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC have been clamped.
The six Muslim girl students, who have moved to the Karnataka High Court against a ban on hijab remained absent, principal of the government PU college for women at Udupi, Rudre Gowda said. The 23 girl students who also insisted on wearing hijab at the government PU college at Kundapur in the district also kept away from classes on Wednesday. They were made to sit in a separate room last week when they refused to remove the headscarves before entering classes.
Classes did not resume at the MGM college, Manipal in Udupi, where chaotic scenes were witnessed last week with groups of students raising slogans against each other. The authorities had declared a holiday for the college on Wednesday.
Muslim students were allowed to enter classes after removing hijabs at the G Shankar government women’s first grade college at Ajjarkad in the district. Those who refused were made to sit in a separate classroom.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai yesterday told the state legislative assembly that his government will abide by the High Court's interim order on the Hijab row. The Chief Minister was replying to Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, who sought clarification from him during the zero hour, on the Higher Education Minister C N Ashwath Narayan's statement that dress code is applicable to Pre University colleges and not for Degree Colleges
"The Higher Education Minister has stated the facts. He has said that dress code is applicable where the rules exist and it is not there for higher education institutions or Degree Colleges," Bommai said.
He said that the High Court's interim order is also very clear - where there is dress code it has to be followed, and it is not applicable where it does not exist. "Things are very clear, our government will abide by the High Court order," he added.
As protests for and against the hijab intensified in different parts of Karnataka and turned violent in some places, the government had declared a holiday for all high schools and colleges in the state for three days, from February 9, and it was subsequently extended up to February 16 for colleges. However, the Karnataka High Court, in its interim order pending consideration of all petitions related to the hijab issue, last week had requested the state government to reopen educational institutions and restrained all the students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab and any religious flag in the classroom. Following the Court order, the government decided to reopen schools and colleges.