With more colleges
in Karnataka barring girl students from wearing the hijab, protests against the
rule are cropping up across the state. On Saturday, nearly 40 students of Bhandarkars
Arts and Science College in Udupi district’s Kundapur staged a protest against
the rule with girls staying adamant about wearing the hijab, according to an
NDTV report. The students haven’t attended classes for two consecutive days.

The college does
not have a rule against the hijab. However, Narayan Shetty, principal of the
college said he is a government servant and has to follow the government’s instructions.
“I was told that some students will enter the college wearing saffron shawls,
and if harmony is disturbed in the name of religion, the principal will be held
responsible,” he said.

How it all

The hijab and the
right of girls to wear the headscarf to educational institutions has become a
political flashpoint in Karnataka since the incident at Government Girls PU
College in Udupi where a group of students entered the college wearing saffron
shawls in protest against Muslim girls wearing the hijab.

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The communal
nature of the incident sparked widespread concern. Karnataka Home Minister
Araga Jnanendra said children should “neither wear hijab nor saffron shawls in school.”

“Schools are the
place where children belonging to different religions should learn together and
imbibe a feeling that we are not different, we are all children of Bharat Mata,”
the home minister told reporters Friday.

Core concerns

While Muslim women
sporting a hijab is nothing new, the hijab has turned into assumed political
overtones in several parts of the world, including in some European nations. While
the global debate on the hijab has centred on secular values and women’s agency
over their bodies, in India, it is the right-wing Hindu religious organisations
who have had most to say about Muslim women wearing the hijab.

The legality of
the hijab is, of course, not a settled question of law. However, the row, as it
stands, does not have a legal aspect either. The Indian Constitution has a
clear mandate guaranteeing the “freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess,
practise and propagate any religion.”

What people

Congress’s Rahul
Gandhi addressed the row on Saturday on Twitter where he wrote, “By letting students’ hijab come in the way of
their education, we are robbing the future of the daughters of India. Ma
Saraswati gives knowledge to all. She doesn’t differentiate.”

Siddaramaiah, the
Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly, said, “Constitution has
given the right to practice any religion which means one can wear any clothes
according to their religion. Prohibiting ‘Hijab’ wearing students from entering
school is a violation of fundamental rights.”