A three-member bench of the Karnataka High Court, led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, has resumed hearing in the Hijab matter. Last week, in a contentious interim order, the court ruled that schools and colleges could reopen but no religious clothing, including hijabs, would be allowed. The order was challenged in the Supreme Court – on grounds it violated students’ constitutional rights – but Chief Justice NV Ramana only said: “We will interfere only at an appropriate time” and was unmoved despite the case’s “far-reaching implications”. The top court earlier refused to hear a petition challenging a state order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.
As schools re-opened this morning visuals poured in of students forced to remove hijabs before entering campuses. One clip showed a teacher from a state-aided school in Mandya district saying “remove that, remove that (the hijab)” to students. The clip also showed some parents asking that their children be allowed to wear a hijab till inside the building, but permission was refused. They were only allowed to enter after removing their hijabs. In Shivamogga 13 students – 10 from Class 10, two from Class 9 and one from Class 8 – went home after they refused to remove their hijabs. Their parents said: “We brought the children to write the exam… they did not wear burqa, only hijab. Earlier all (students) used to wear hijabs… we cannot let them take the hijab off, that is why we’re taking them back.”
Other visuals being widely shared online also show teachers (from the same school in Mandya) also being ordered to remove burqas before entering the school campus; they were shown removing the burqas by the side of the road and not inside the school building. Ahead of today’s classes, orders banning large gatherings were announced in districts like Udupi and Shivamogga, which witnessed tense stand-offs between students demanding the right to wear a hijab and those opposed, including right-wing groups brandishing saffron shawls and scarves. In Mangaluru, prohibitory orders are in place for 200 metres around all high schools. In Udupi – where the protests first began – assemblies of five or more people near schools have been banned. On Sunday, police in Shivamogga – where last week saffron scarves were waved and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chanted as a saffron flag was flown on campus – banned gatherings on or around school premises.
Protests have escalated rapidly over the past few weeks. Last week a young student in Mandya was heckled by saffron-waving male aggressors shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. The protests have been noticed worldwide, with Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and French footballer Paul Pogba supporting the Muslim students.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has said “If a girl decides to wear Hijab and asks her parents to do so and when her parents allow her to wear it, which can stop her from wearing it? We will see it, Inshaallah,” Mr Owaisi is heard saying in a 43-second video of his address in an election rally. “The girls will wear hijab, will wear Niqab and go to colleges and become doctors, collectors, SDMs and businessmen,” Mr Owaisi was heard saying in the video, shared on his Twitter handle. “You all keep in mind, perhaps when I am not alive, a girl wearing a hijab will become the Prime Minister of this country one day,” he added.