The Hijab Row controversy came to light on January 1 when six female students alleged that they were not permitted to enter the classroom as they were wearing Hijab. The controversy started in a government PU college in Udupi, Karnataka. Hijab is a headscarf worn by Muslim ladies, and it covers their head, face, neck, and shoulders. The female students were asked to leave the class due to non-compliance with the order, held a press conference stating that even after seeking permission, the college authorities refused to let them enter with their faces covered. After the press conference, the students started protests in school, which later spread like wildfire and turned into state-wide protests & conflicts.
PROTESTS & COUNTER-PROTESTS
After the female students were asked to leave the class due to non-compliance with the order, held a press conference stating that even after seeking permission. The college authorities refused to let them enter with their faces covered. After the press conference, the students started protests in school, which later spread like wildfire and turned into state-wide protests & conflicts. The hijab protest soon took the face of religious outrage. The majority of Hindu students wore saffron scarves and chanted slogans of Jai Shree Ram. The religious outrage led to verbal spat between different groups in various states. The protests that were started in a Government College in Karnataka have now taken the form of nationwide protest.
IMPACT ON EDUCATION OF MUSLIM WOMEN DUE TO HIJAB CONTROVERSY
Experts think that the Hijab Row controversy can have a huge impact on the education of Muslim women in India
The education system of Karnataka involves 10 years of school and two years of pre-university college (“PU college”). Using authority conferred under the ‘Karnataka Education Act, 1983’, Sec. 145(1), the Government of Karnataka empowered recognised educational institutions to take the decision on uniforms for their students. For school students, uniforms are mandated by the state government, even though schools are able to choose the colors. For PU colleges, uniforms were not mandated by the government, but, over time, most college development committees (CDCs)[a] have adopted them, according to a PU department official. In 2017, the department issued a direction to all PU colleges saying that PU students should not be asked to wear uniforms. College managements that already had uniforms questioned the direction, saying that the students and parents were happy. The direction was still found on the PU Education Department website in February 2022, but it does not appear to have been enforced.
Muslims constitute 13 percent of the population of the state of Karnataka. Muslim ladies in the state are accessing public education in ever-increasing numbers. Data shows that the Gross Attendance Ratio of Muslim ladies in higher education rose from about 1 percent in 2007-08 to a high of about 16 percent in 2017-18.
Many Muslim ladies consider Hijab to be a part of the Islamic faith. In India, the public display of religious symbols is common, including wearing a Hijab and burqa. PEW reports that in Karnataka, 71% of Muslim ladies and 42% of Hindu women cover their heads outside the home (in India, 89% of Muslim women and 59% of Hindu women cover their heads outside the home). Several colleges in Karnataka reported that a small number of Muslim students have “always” worn the Hijab in the classroom.
According to the BBC, the coastal belt of Karnataka has seen protests over Hijab in the past, but such issues were often fastly resolved. Not all cases were easy, however. A second-year PU student at Moodbidri was disallowed from attending classes for an entire year in 2011–12 due to her insistence on wearing Hijab. There have also been instances of Hindu religion students protesting with saffron scarves to oppose Muslim students being allowed a Hijab in the classroom. The Muslim ladies were said to have been anxious that their parents would not allow them to go to college without their religious clothing.
INVOLVEMENT OF COURT & GOVERNMENT
The Hijab Row controversy has led to nationwide protests involving the Court Or State Government. Petitions were filed in Karnataka High Court, where Muslim students sought the right to wear a Hijab under Sections 14, 19 & 25 of the Constitution of India. In an interim order, the court ordered restraint of wearing any kinds of hijabs, scarves inside classrooms and asked students to wear uniforms in colleges. The Karnataka government justified the ban on Hijab inside classrooms under its 1983 Education Act. In a February 5 order, it said that under Section 133 of the act, the government reserves the right to issue appropriate directions to schools and colleges to ensure maintenance of public order.
Following the Hijab Row controversy, the state government has ordered the closing of all schools and colleges in Karnataka.
Young women wearing religious headscarves tearfully pleading to be allowed entry into schools and colleges. Many vowing not to remove their hijabs have raised concerns on the impact this will have on their education. While the case is in the High Court of Karnataka, several writers and activists from the Muslim community and education specialists have expressed fear that the standoff may likely hit the recent progress made on the front of educating Muslim girls. Most of them have vowed not to enter classrooms without their hijabs. Many prominent personalities have come forward and shared their views on Hijab Ban and its impact on Muslim Women’s education. There have been various voices from within the Muslim community trying to prioritize education rather than cultural practices. “I am not against for wear Hijab, but education must take precedence for the community. After all, the first revelation of the Holy Quran says “Iqra”, which means “read”. The community is forced to navigate a very difficult terrain where the community is being targeted. Still, the community should not get into further ghettoisation but instead give priority to education,” Prof. Assadi said.