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, Live Law reported.

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. These students have been protesting for nearly a month. The court has posted the matter for further hearing on Wednesday.

In the past few days, many colleges in Karnataka have seen confrontation between groups of students. On Tuesday, the Karnataka government announced that all high schools and colleges in the state will remain shut for three days between February 9 and February 11. This was after videos from at least two more colleges showed groups of men wearing saffron scarves protesting against women wearing hijabs.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Justice Dixit blamed a “mischievous section” which he said was keeping the controversy “burning”.

“But making agitation, going on the street, shouting slogans, attacking students, students attacking others, these are not good things,” Dixit said.

Earlier in the day, Dixit had said that he will abide by the Constitution and not get swayed by passions or emotions while hearing a case on allowing students to wear hijabs in colleges, Live Law reported.

“Constitution is the Bhagavad Gita for me,” Justice Krishna Dixit said. “I have taken the oath to abide by Constitution. Let’s keep the emotions aside.”

India’s Constitution guarantees a person the freedom to practise their religion as a fundamental right, subject to certain restrictions. In the past, the courts have held that the right to wear a hijab would fall under the protections guaranteed by the Constitution.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Mohammed Tahir, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that only two months are left for the academic year to end and requested that the students be allowed to wear hijabs for that duration at least.

The court took note of Tahir’s statement and asked the advocate general to respond to it. “We cannot see everyday students going to road,” Justice Dixit said, according to Live Law. “That’s not a happy scene. International community [is] also seeing.”

The advocate general said that the state government has given autonomy to College Development Committees to decide on uniforms, Bar and Bench reported. He told the court that if students want any relaxations, they need to approach the committees.

However, senior advocate Devadatt Kamat, who is representing students from Kundapura college, said that the state government’s stand was not as “innocuous” as that and mentioned that the state government has issued an order in this regard. He also said that passing a blanket order against protests will create grave constitutional issues.

The court then said that it will hear the case on merits, as the state government has not agreed to the suggestion of the petitioners to let the students wear hijabs for the two remaining months of the academic session.

Also read:

  1. Why a Karnataka college’s hijab ban is an assault on the fundamental right to religion
  2. The Karnataka campaign isn’t just about the hijab – it’s mainly about showing Muslims their place

Confrontations between student groups

Earlier in the day, two groups of students held protests at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in Udupi district on the wearing of hijabs inside the campus.

Muslim students shouted slogans of “we want justice” as a large group of male students wearing saffron shawls and headgear confronted them. A video showed the Hindu students waving their shawls and shouting slogans.

The protestors from the Hindu community said that they got the saffron shawls from Hindutva organisation Hindu Jagrana Vedike.

A large number of police personnel were called to the college to control the situation. Both groups of students were barred from entering the college.