The controversy over wearing the hijab in an educational institution doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Again, Muslim female students wearing hijab were denied entry by authorities to a government pre-university college on Friday in Kundapur in Udupi district of Karnataka. This is the third day that the problem has surfaced in the establishment.
The students entered the college premises despite strict orders from the authorities that wearing the hijab would not be permitted in accordance with the status quo on the dress code issued by the state government.
ANI quoted the state’s education minister, BC Nagesh, as saying, “They weren’t wearing hijab earlier and this problem started only 20 days ago.”
The whole problem started in early January when six female students attended classes wearing the hijab in violation of the dress code in the classrooms of the Government Girls’ Pre-University (PU) College in Udupi.
Boys wearing saffron scarves
The issue has been politicized in the religiously polarized climate, with ministers intervening between students and education authorities. In protest against allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab inside the educational institution, the boys started wearing saffron headscarves and brandishing religious slogans. However, in some institutes, boys were ordered to remove headscarves and follow the dress code.
But here, the question arises of the limitation to the monitoring of religious symbols. Is it only about practicing religion, or is it the result of a mixture of education and politics on religious grounds?
Why all the controversy over the hijab?
On February 3, Shashi Tharoora politician associated with the Indian National Congress, supported protesting Muslim girls and asked direct questions about religious dress.
He said: “It is a strength of India that everyone is free to wear whatever they want. If the hijab is banned, what about the Sikh turban? The mark on the forehead of the Hindu? The Christian’s crucifix? Let the girls in. Let them study. Let THEM decide.
Visible religious symbol
Controversy over religious symbols such as the Muslim skullcap/hijab, Christian crucifix, etc., is not a new thing globally. India is a diverse country with several religions practiced by its citizens. But in recent years, visible religious symbols have become a political issue in the country.
The Indian constitution provides for “freedom of religion” as a fundamental right guaranteed by Articles 25 to 28. Every Indian citizen has the right to practice and promote their religion peacefully.
However, in bitter truth, many incidents of religious intolerance have resulted in riots and violence, such as the anti-Sikh massacre in 1984, the anti-Hindu riots in 1990, the Gujarat riots in 2002, the anti-Christian riots in 2008 and the very recent Delhi Rioys in 2020.
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