Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday said that his government will withdraw the order that effectively banned wearing hijab in educational institutions in the state.

A day later, the chief minister clarified that his government is yet to pass an order to revoke the ban, reported NDTV. “Yes, the government is considering to end the ban,” Siddaramaiah added. “But the matter will be discussed with government officers first.”

Announcing the ban in a tweet on Friday, the Congress leader said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of “sabka sath, sabka vikas [cooperation of all, development of all]” is bogus.

“[The] Bharatiya Janata Party is dividing people and society on the basis of clothes, dress, caste,” Siddaramaiah said in a social media post. “I have ordered to withdraw the hijab ban.”

The previous BJP government in Karnataka had in February 2022 enforced a ban on wearing a hijab in educational institutions across the state. The order had stated that students would have to wear the uniform prescribed by their schools and pre-university colleges.

Where uniforms were not prescribed, any clothing that disturbs “equality, integrity and public law and order” should not be worn, the order had said.

This was after, in December 2021, a college in Udupi stopped six girls from attending classes for wrapping the headscarf. The girls staged a protest in the college and soon such demonstrations spread to other parts of the state.

The girls challenged the order in the Karnataka High Court, which upheld the ban. 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 2022. A two-judge bench said that the matter would 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.

Siddaramaiah’s announcement on social media platform X on Friday came after he addressed an event where he criticised the BJP for interfering in people’s personal choice of clothing and food, reported the Hindustan Times.

“What to wear and what to eat is a personal choice,” Siddaramaiah said. “Why should [the] government obstruct such issues? Wear what you want and eat what you feel like. I wear [a] dhoti and you wear [a] shirt with pants. What is wrong with that?”

The chief minister was then asked about the hijab ban, The Indian Express reported.

“You can wear [the] hijab,” Siddaramaiah said. “I have instructed [the officials] that there will be no restriction from tomorrow [Saturday] onwards. You can wear and eat whatever you want. It’s up to you.”

After the Congress won Assembly elections in the state in May, the party’s lone Muslim woman MLA Kaneez Fatima had told Scroll that the ban on hijab would be lifted.

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