The Congress will lift the ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions of Karnataka, the party’s only Muslim woman MLA in the state, Kaneez Fatima, told Scroll on Saturday.

“God willing, we will reverse the hijab ban in the coming days and we will get those girls back to classrooms and they will be able to appear for their exams,” Fatima said. “They have lost two precious years.”

The party, however, had not made any announcement about lifting the ban in its election manifesto.

The Congress secured a clear majority in Karnataka, winning 136 of the 224 Assembly seats in the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party won 65, while the Janata Dal (Secular) won 19.

Fatima defeated the BJP’s Chandrakant B Patil in the Gulbarga Uttar constituency by 2,712 votes.

A controversy on wearing hijab in educational institutes of Karnataka had sparked off in December 2021 after a college in Udupi stopped six girls from attending classes as they used to wrap the headscarf. The girls staged a protest in the college and soon such demonstrations spread to other parts of the state.

On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order banning clothings that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”. Six girl students from the Udupi college challenged the order in the Karnataka High Court, but the ban was upheld. In its judgement, the High Court held that wearing hijab was not essential to Islam. The judgement was then challenged before the Supreme Court, which delivered a split verdict in October. A two-judge bench said that the matter will be placed before the chief justice for his directions on the future course of action. The Supreme Court has not yet formed a bench to hear the matter.

On Saturday, Fatima told Scroll that the Congress had worked very hard during the campaign for the elections. “It was a tough contest but I am grateful to God for this win.”

She also gave credit to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge for the party’s win in the state. “Since Kharge became party president we have worked very hard,” Fatima said. “He delivered speeches and it had a huge impact on people and the result is now in front of you,” she said.

Fatima had first contested Assembly elections in 2018 after the death of her husband, Qamar - ul -Islam in September 2017. In February 2022, she had led a protest of Muslim girls in Kalburgi against the ban on hijab.

Minister who introduced Hijab ban loses

Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh, whose department had imposed the hijab ban, lost his Tiptur seat on Saturday. Nagesh was defeated by Congress candidate K Shadakshari by a margin of 17,652 votes, data from the Election Commission showed.

However, the BJP’s Yashpal Suvarna – one of the most incendiary voices in the Karnataka hijab ban controversy – won the election from Udupi. He defeated Congress candidate Prasadraj Kanchan by 32,776 votes.

Suvarna is the vice president of the Development Committee of Udupi Government PU Girls’ College, the flashpoint of protests by students after they were stopped from wearing hijab in classrooms last year.

In April, Suvarna had said that the six girl students who moved court against the government’s hijab ban order were “terrorists”.