Karnataka schools reopen after hijab ban protests

Wednesday 16th February 2022 06:26 EST

Bengaluru: Schools up to class 10 reopened in Karnataka on Monday after having been shut for six days as large-scale demonstrations erupted in the state after Muslim students in some colleges were banned from class for wearing the hijab or headscarf.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been imposed in some areas in the districts of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Bengaluru. Assembly of five or more people around the school perimeter was not allowed. The Udupi district administration said that students were attending schools and the situation is peaceful. They added that the district administration is following the Karnataka High Court’s interim order restraining students of all faiths from wearing religious clothing in the classroom.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai earlier expressed confidence that peace and normalcy will prevail. On Saturday, the Karnataka government extended the shutdown of pre-university colleges in the state till February 16. State Higher Education Minister CN Ashwathnarayan, however, said online examinations will be held as per schedule.

Last week, Hindu students and mobs of men protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes at several places in Karnataka. Many of them wore saffron scarves as a mark of protest. At some colleges, Muslim students were heckled, while in another case some men climbed up a flagpole to plant a saffron flag and broke into classrooms.

As tensions across the state rose, the Karnataka government on February 8 ordered all high schools and colleges in the state to be temporarily closed. Meanwhile, the Karnataka High Court on Monday continue hearing a group of petitions challenging the ban on hijabs in educational institutions.

On February 10, the court had stated that while all citizens have the right to profess and practice any faith, it is subject to reasonable restrictions under the Constitution. The order added that the matter as to whether wearing a hijab in a classroom is an essential religious practice of Islam needs a deeper examination.

Hijabs, shawls banned

In an interim order, the full bench of the Karnataka high court ruled that all students, regardless of religion or faith, are restrained from wearing “saffron shawls (bhagwa), scarves, hijabs, religious flags within classrooms.” The high court made it clear that the interim order is applicable to only those institutions that have prescribed a dress code or uniform.
The hijab row in Karnataka sparked protests in Delhi, Aligarh, Hyderabad and Vijayawada, while students of a private college in Jaipur district insisted on attending class in burqa as they have been for three years, and police had to be called in.

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