The newly appointed chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), M Jagadesh Kumar, said on Saturday that he has never been bothered by “students’ clothing practices”.

Speaking to The Indian Express amid the Karnataka row over hijab, the former Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University said that clothing is usually based on the ‘societal practice’ and ‘weather conditions’. 

Also Read: What, where and why of Karnataka hijab row: All you need to know

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.

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.”

Also Read | Won’t allow Talibanisation, says K’taka BJP Chief on Hijab row

While the UGC chairman did not comment on the Karnataka row, he said, “I do not know the background of the incident that took place (in Karnataka). However, if we look at my university (JNU), we do not have any such restrictions on what clothes they wear. I can only talk about my institution and the practices here.”

“I think clothes have more to do with weather conditions and (one’s) comfort level… (For instance) we have adapted (our) clothing (and) that is more suitable to Delhi weather. (At JNU) we have not done anything new to clothing; it is a societal practice that is going on and we have nothing to say about our students’ clothing practices,” he told The Indian Express.

Also Read: Hijab controversy may persist despite Karnataka govt ban on clothes disturbing social harmony

“(As) for me, I am very flexible towards the clothing that my students have in my classrooms in IIT,” he said.

Kumar, a former IIT-Delhi Professor, was appointed as the UGC chairman on Friday. Speaking to the publication, he said his priority would be ‘speedy implementation of the National Education Policy and that the Commission holds further talks and discussions with stakeholders to address their concerns. 

Meanwhile in Karnataka, nearly 40 students of Bhandarkars Arts and Science College in Udupi district’s Kundapur staged a protest against the hijab ban on Saturday with girls staying adamant about wearing it, according to an NDTV report.