The Educational Institutions are Not Places to Profess any Particular Religion in Karnataka

By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Feb 10:

The decision to bar the Muslim girl students wearing hijab, a head covering, from the campus in certain schools and colleges in Karnataka, has snowballed into a controversy with mixed reactions coming in.
The Karnataka Government recently banned the hijab in junior colleges and asked girl students to adhere to the dress code which they had agreed while seeking admissions. 
The order of the education department (pre-university) invoking Section 133 (2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, stated that students will have to wear the dress chosen by the college development committee or the appellate committee of the administrative board of pre-university colleges which come under the pre-university education department.
However, after the order was issued, there have been anti and pro-ban protests and the police have imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in certain parts. The prohibitory measures ban gathering or protest of any type within the area of 200 metre radius from the educational institutions. Yet the protests went on. Those supporting the ban were sporting saffron scarves. Some students also tried to furl the saffron flag at one of the campuses. As such 15 persons were arrested by Karnataka police on Wednesday on charges of breaching peace and harmony, mainly in Shivamogga and Bagalkot districts.
Some of the students also filed a petition in court. In response, Karnataka Chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai announced the closure of all schools and colleges in the state for the next three days given the escalating protest, on Tuesday.
While hearing the petition (Resham v State of Karnataka and Ors), Justice Krishna S Dixit opined that it was necessary to refer the matter to a larger bench. Accordingly, the matter will be heard by a full bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and  Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi on Thursday.
In its statement of objections, the Karnataka Government took a stand that it was not in favour of any particular student or group, nor was it interested in interfering with religious beliefs. However, the government’s only concern remained maintenance of uniformity, which it claimed was indispensable to an educational institution. Besides educational institutions are not places to profess any particular religion.
In Mumbai, Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray when contacted opined that “Where there is a prescribed uniform in schools/colleges, it should be followed. Only education should be the focus at the centres of education. Religious or political issues should not be brought to schools/colleges”.
However, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Imtiyaz Jaleel from Aurangabad, said that going by the Constitution there should be freedom to wear the dress as per the choice. He also appealed to non-Muslim sisters to come together and wear hijab in support of the Muslim students. The beauty of India is its unity in diversity, he added.
Similarly, some Muslim girls in Mumbai protested the ban on hijab saying that it provides them more security and one should not interfere with religion. If need be they are prepared to  give up education and even jobs, they claimed.
A signature campaign in support of the hijab was carried out in Madanpura in South Mumbai and Bhiwandi near Mumbai, amid the ongoing controversy over wearing hijab in colleges of Karnataka.
The “Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan”, Mumbai, in a statement said that “Denying entry to Muslims students in hijab violates their fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution, hence this discrimination must stop. Singling out hijab for criticism is unfair and discriminatory and we want this discrimination against Muslim girls in hijab to stop. The Constitution grants the Right to Religious Freedom as well as the Right to Education, and the girls cannot be denied the education because they choose to wear hijab. While the college authorities are free to decide their own rules, they cannot violate fundamental rights. The parents would not permit the girls to go to college without hijab and the authorities would deny them entry because of hijab. In either case, girls’ education is bound to suffer”.
However, different situation prevailed in Karnataka colleges. Speaking to the Imphal  Times, Prof Shailendra Raikar of Kanakadas Shikshana Samiti’s Arts, Commerce & Science College, located in Gadag in North Karnataka, said that in his college a separate room for girl students has been provided. The students change their dress and attend classes with other students. There is no demand for wearing hijab and as such the issue doesn’t arise. However our college has been closed for three days for students given the Government order, he added.
Vinay Kolvekar a trader from Davanagere said that although there have been incidents of stone-pelting and consequent lathi-charge and bursting of tear gas shells in Udupi, Shivamogga, Bagalkote, and other parts by police, the situation was calm and the people were not bothered about the hijab and such things.
BJP MP from North Karnataka and former Karnataka Chief Minister and twice the union minister in the Modi cabinet, D V Sadananda Gowda told the Imphal Times that there is nothing like “Hindu-Muslim divide” because Bharat is one. (India is one) But people should follow the rules. Now this matter is sub-judice”.
Ashish, a seasoned media professional who has handled many campaigns of the Karnataka Government said that “the disputes between different communities in different pockets of Karnataka are going on for the ages. The Muslim dominance enters Karnataka from Kasargod in neighbouring Karnataka. It traverses via Mangalore, Manipal, and Udipi and penetrate other areas of Karnataka. There are land disputes and in the process smaller shrines are demolished. So much so that even churches are covered with the strings of green light bulbs, along with mosques, during Eid. Besides a fight for separate “Tulunadu” ( a separate state for Tulu-speaking people) is already on. Besides, there is a dispute between different political leaders which adds a fuel to the fire. Bangalore is the only cosmopolitan city”.

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