The Karnataka Waqf Board is planning to set up schools and colleges for girls and women in ten districts of the state, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.

The chairperson of the board, Moulana Shafi Saadi, said that students will be allowed to wear hijab in the institutions.

Saadi said that the proposal was not linked to protests in the state seeking the right to wear hijabs in educational institutions, India Today reported.

“This decision was taken before,” he said. “Everybody is allowed to get admission to this college. There will be general school and college rules and it will follow university guidelines.”

The schools and colleges will be set up in the districts of Mangaluru, Udupi, Kodagu, Shivamogga, Chitradurga, Bagalkote, Vijayapura, Kalburgi, Chikkodi, and Nippani.

The institutions will offer education from the kindergarten level to the professional degree level. The institutions will be constructed on Waqf land for Rs 25 crore, which will be borne by the board.

A waqf is a property given for a religious, educational or charitable cause by Muslims. In India, waqfs are governed under the Waqf Act, 1995. Each state has a Waqf Board led by a legal entity, which is vested with the power to acquire, hold and transfer property.

Commenting on the Karnataka Waqf Board’s proposal, Sanjay Badaskar, a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, questioned the rationale behind setting up such institutions.

“Aren’t there enough government schools and minority schools in the state?” he asked, according to The Indian Express. “What is the need to establish more schools that will be run by Muslims? This is nothing but another form of the madrasa and a form of polarization. Allowing hijabs in such institutions is to make their narrative stronger.”

Badaskar claimed that Hindu students and staff members would face discrimination in institutions set up by the Waqf Board. “We will oppose this tooth and nail,” he said.

Hijab protests

On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order to ban clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order” in educational institutions. This was after students in many parts of the state were barred from attending classes while wearing hijabs.

On October 13, the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict on a group of petitions that challenged the order.