Huge Karnataka Protests Ahead Of Court Hearing On Hijab

NDTV News

A large number of policemen were called in to control the chaos at the gates of the MGM college in Udupi

Udupi, Karnataka:

A massive crowd of students, one group wearing the hijab and another waving saffron scarves and headscarves, protested at a college in Karnataka’s Udupi this morning in a snowballing confrontation just before a High Court hearing on a petition challenging hijab restrictions on campus.

As two groups stood at the gates of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) college in Udupi, a large number of policemen were called in to control the chaos.

Students wearing saffron, who were already in the college, shouted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” while the college administration looked on.

Young women in hijab alleged that they were pushed out of the gates and protested what they alleged was discrimination by the college.

“Why are we not being allowed inside? They are wearing saffron scarves only now. We have been wearing the hijab since childhood. They pushed us out of the college gates,” said a young woman in hijab.

As the situation threatened to escalate, the college staff tried to herd the saffron-wearing group outside the gates.

The hijab versus saffron scarves on campus clash has taken hold of many colleges in Karnataka. Some colleges declared a holiday yesterday to avoid communal trouble while another college allowed students wearing the hijab in separate classrooms.

“All the concerned people should keep the peace and let children study. The matter will be presented in High Court today, let’s wait for it,” Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters.

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The High Court will hear petitions filed by five women from a government college in Udupi, questioning hijab restrictions.

The hijab protests began last month at the Government Girls PU college in Udupi when six students alleged that they had been barred from classes for insisting on wearing the headscarf. Right-wing groups in Udupi and Chikkamagaluru objected to Muslim girls wearing the hijab to class.

The protests spread to more colleges in Udupi and beyond, with staff banning the hijab and many students taking a confrontational position by showing up in saffron scarves and shouting slogans.

On Saturday, the state’s BJP government banned clothes which it said “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

“In the event of the administrative committee not selecting a uniform, clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn,” the order said.

“The education department has noticed that in some education institutions, the boys and girls have started behaving according to their religion, which hurts the equality and unity,” it added.

The row has taken a political turn with the state’s opposition Congress alleging that rightwing groups are exploiting and instigating the protests.

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