Uniformity in religion, attire or language should not be imposed in India, Santishree D Pandit, the vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, told PTI on Wednesday.

“Both [Jawaharlal] Nehru and Indira Gandhi were not fools to talk about the tri-language formula because, in India, uniformity does not work in any form,” Pandit told the news agency in an interaction earlier this week.

In the Hindi speaking states, the three-language formula includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, along with Hindi and English. In other states, the formula proposes that the study of Hindi should be taken up along with the regional language and English.

When asked about the push from certain sections to declare Hindi as the national language, the vice-chancellor said: “One language should not be imposed. If some people want to change it [official language] to Hindi in some states, they can. But in the south, it will be difficult…in east India, even in Maharashtra, I do not think Hindi is acceptable.”

She said language was a sensitive issue that one should be careful with. Pandit said no one particular religion can also be imposed throughout the country.

“I do not think any one religion will work here as these are individual issues, but people at the helm want to do this,” she said.

Responding to a question about dress codes in educational institutions, Pandit said it should be a personal choice.

“I am against a dress code,” she said. “I think [educational] spaces should be open. If somebody wants to wear a hijab, it’s their choice and if somebody does not want to wear it, they should not be forced.”

In February 2022, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Karnataka government at the time had passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

The move came 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.

After the Congress came to power in Karnataka last year, the party said its government would withdraw the order banning hijab in educational institutions in the state. An order in this regard is yet to be passed.