Amid an escalating row on allowing students to wear hijabs in educational institutions, the Karnataka government on Tuesday announced that all high schools and colleges in the state will remain shut for three days between February 9 and February 11.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai made the announcement on Twitter. “I appeal to all the students, teachers and management of schools and colleges as well as people of Karnataka to maintain peace and harmony,” he wrote in a tweet in Kannada.
The decision came as protests against students wearing hijabs spread to other parts of the state.
On Tuesday morning, visuals from the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in Udupi district showed Muslim students wearing hijabs and shouting slogans of “we want justice”, as a large group of male students wearing saffron shawls and headgear confront them. The male students are then seen waving their shawls and shouting slogans.
Earlier in the day, both groups of students were barred from entering the college, The News Minute reported. The protestors from the Hindu community said that they got the saffron shawls from Hindutva organisation Hindu Jagrana Vedike.
A Muslim student said that the college management told them to either remove their hijabs or go back home, Times Now reported. Another student said that the college earlier allowed them to wear hijabs, but has suddenly started objecting to them.
A large number of police personnel were called to the college to control the situation, according to NDTV.
Meanwhile, a Muslim woman wearing a burqa was heckled at the PES College in Karnataka’s Mandya city by students who had wrapped saffron shawls. In a video of the incident, a group of men could be seen shouting slogans of Jai Shri Ram, to which the woman retorts saying Allahu Akbar.
As many as three colleges in the state had declared a holiday on Tuesday too, The Hindu reported.
The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Pre University and Degree colleges in Udupi, both situated on the same premises, and the Government First Grade College in Dakshina Kannada district declared a holiday to avoid any untoward incident.
In a video from Shivamogga district, a group of students wearing saffron scarves could be seen hoisting a saffron flag. The incident took place at the Government First Grade College in Shivamogga, following which stones were hurled in the campus, according to The News Minute.
Violence also erupted in Devangere district where police had to use tear gas shells to disperse crowd, reported The Quint.
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday asked students holding protests on the matter of allowing students to wear hijabs in educational institutions, to maintain peace and tranquility. Justice Krishna Dixit has been hearing petitions filed by students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College seeking permission to wear hijabs in college.
“Only a mischievous section will keep the issue burning,” Dixit said at Tuesday’s hearing. “But making agitation, going on the street, shouting slogans, attacking students, students attacking others, these are not good things.”
Confrontations between groups of students on the wearing of the hijab have spread to a large number of colleges in Karnataka in the past few days. On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order that barred students from wearing clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.
On Monday, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said students must adhere to the dress code mentioned in the order on February 5 till the High Court takes up the case.
Multiple students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi have filed the case in the High Court. Students at the pre-university college had protested for nearly a month after the college did not allow them to attend classes while wearing hijabs.
On Monday, the college allowed students wearing hijabs to enter the campus. However, they were not allowed to attend classes and were instead given permission to protest inside a hall in the college building.
Several Congress leaders have expressed solidarity with the Muslim students. On February 5, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had remarked on the incidents saying that the future of Indian daughters was being robbed.
“By letting students’ hijab come in the way of their education, we are robbing the future of the daughters of India,” Gandhi said in a tweet. “Ma [mother] Saraswati gives knowledge to all. She doesn’t differentiate.”
Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the Indian Constitution gives the right to practice religion, which means one can wear clothes as per their religion. He said prohibiting students wearing the hijab from entering schools is a violation of their fundamental rights.
Bharatiya Janata Party Karnataka President Nalin Kumar Kateel, however, claimed that the state government will not allow the “Talibanisation” of the education system.