As the controversy continued over students wearing hijabs being stopped from attending classes at some colleges in Udupi district, the Karnataka government on Saturday evening passed an order banning clothes which “disturb equality, integrity and public order”, PTI reported.

The government order invoked 133 (2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, which says that a uniform has to be worn compulsorily. “The private school administration can choose a uniform of their choice,” the order, according to PTI.

According to the order, students must 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.

The order stated that in case of the administrative committee not selecting a uniform, “clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn”.

Earlier on Saturday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had criticised the escalating controversy on students wearing hijabs being stopped from attending class.

On Saturday, videos posted on social media showed students wearing saffron shawls in protest against girls attending classes wearing hijab at Bhandarkar College at Kundapura and Ramadurga in Belagavi. Students wore saffron scarves over their uniforms and chanted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram”, NDTV reported.

While the Karnataka High Court will on February 8 hear petitions by five girls of Udupi’s Government Pre-University College on restricting the hijab, the state government on Friday said “existing uniform rules” must continue until the verdict, The Times of India reported.

Primary and secondary education minister BV Nagesh said that colleges must follow the uniform code prescribed by their School Development and Monitoring Committees.

He said that education institutions, under the Karnataka Education Act, have the freedom to decide their own uniform code. According to Nagesh, the uniform code is implemented to maintain “harmony and brotherhood” among students.

The minister added that the Kerala and Bombay High Courts have held that students cannot wear headscarves to school.

PUCL condemns state government

Meanwhile, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Karnataka has condemned the state government saying it has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to protect the right to education of Muslim girls.

In a statement, the human rights body referred to the incidents at the Pre-University College in Kundapura in Karnataka and said it is shocking that the state government and the education department have not put an end to the “needless controversy”.

For nearly a month, students at the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi in Karnataka also protested after the college did not allow them to attend classes while wearing hijabs.

The human rights body has said that the Karnataka chief minister and his Cabinet colleagues are bound by their oath to ensure a secular administration. It highlighted the shocking visuals of Muslim women asserting their right to education and at the same time, a school teacher shutting the gates on its own students.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties said the state government must salvage its own image of that of a “schoolyard bully”, which stands by and denies girls the right to education rather than protecting their constitutional rights.

The human rights organisation highlighted its previous statement which said the ban on hijab-wearing students by the Government Pre-University College in Udupi had violated the fundamental constitutional rights including the Right to Freedom of Religion under Article 25, the Right to Education under Article 21-A and the Right to Dignity under Article 21.