Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Balmukund Acharya faced protests after he objected to students wearing hijabs at a government school in Rajasthan’s Jaipur on Monday, reported NDTV.

The MLA from the Hawa Mahal constituency, during a visit to a school in the Gangapol area, had asked school authorities to stop students from wearing hijabs. In a video, he can be seen pulling up a school administrator over some students wearing the headscarf.

In another video, Acharya was seen on a stage, leading the students in chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Saraswati Mata Ki Jai”, reported The Indian Express.

“Some girls are not chanting it,” he remarked. “Have you been asked not to?”

Following the incident, Muslim students and their parents went to a police station, demanding that Acharya be stopped from “vitiating the atmosphere in schools” and that he apologise for his actions. They left after a compromise with the police.

“He [Acharya] asked us to raise religious slogans and when some girls remained silent, he said they were instructed to do so,” one of the students told NDTV. “He also said wearing hijab in school is not allowed.”

Another student said: “He goes to the Assembly wearing a saffron robe. So why this discrimination against the hijab?”

Muslim and Hindu students have submitted separate complaints to the police, reported The Indian Express. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Jaipur North) Rashi Dogra that both groups are alleging that they are not being allowed to follow their religious practices. He added that the complaints have been forwarded to the district collector.

Acharya later released a video, saying that he had asked the principal if the school has two different dress codes. “When a Republic Day function or any government function is held, is there a different dress code?” he asked. “At this rate, even our children will turn up in lehenga chunni.”

Cabinet minister Kirodi Lal Meena has said that he will talk to Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma about implementing a ban on hijab in all government and private schools.

“Because of the fanaticism in the Muslim community, and because of the appeasement politics by the Congress, the community has not been able to progress,” Meena alleged. “They have a lack of education, so there should be propagation of education and the Muslim community should have progressive thinking. Instead, their thinking is more towards crime. The dress code in schools should be followed.”

The minister also claimed that if a girl goes to school wearing a hijab, there will not be any discipline in the institute.

Congress MLA Amin Kagazi accused Acharya of destroying the communal harmony of the city. “If no action is taken by February 2, the protests will begin again,” he said.

A controversy around hijabs in educational institutions had earlier taken place in Karnataka after, in December 2021, a college in Udupi stopped six girls from attending classes for wearing the headscarf. The girls staged a protest in the college and soon such demonstrations spread to other parts of the state.

In 2022, the state government, run by the BJP, 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.

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.

On December 22, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that his government would withdraw the order that effectively banned wearing hijab in educational institutions in the state. However, a day later clarified his government was considering revoking the ban and is yet to pass an order.

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