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Nagpur: The Karnataka High Court today upheld the government order effectively banning the wearing of hijabs by Muslim girl students in educational institutions in the state.

Ahead of the order, the state government had banned large gatherings for a week in Bengaluru to maintain public peace and order. This comes as a huge setback for the students who were protesting against wearing of hijab in educational institutes. A total of five petitions had challenged the ban in the court.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi held:

  • Hijab is not a part of essential religious practices of Islam;
  • Requirement of uniform is a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a);
  • The government has the power to pass the GO; no case is made out for its invalidation.

In December 2021, six students of Udupi Women’s PU College staged a protest at the campus after the college authorities reportedly refused to let them sit in the classrooms while wearing a hijab. On January 3, the Hindu students of the Government First Grade College in Koppa, Chikmagalur staged a protest wearing saffron scarves. Their demand was to let them wear saffron stoles if the Muslim girls are allowed to wear their hijabs and sit in the classrooms.

Students started protesting across the state and on January 6, Karnataka primary and secondary education minister B.C. Nagesh said that the state was mulling a uniform dress code to avoid further controversies.

On January 31, students of Udupi Women’s PU college approached the high court seeking interim relief to attend classes wearing hijabs. The state government till then asked all the colleges to maintain the status quo until the government comes up with a recommendation on the dress code.

The protest intensified after Kundapur government PU college shut on February 2, its main gate for students wearing hijab. The video of students pleading with the college principal to allow them to sit in the class went viral. On February 3, over 300 Hindu students backed by various Hindutva organisations staged a protest at Byndoor Government PU college.

Leaders of the saffron party have claimed that the Muslim students who want to wear hijabs to the colleges are trying to ‘Talibanise’ the educational institutions

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