The six Muslim girls who have been denied entry to their classrooms at a Pre-University College in Udupi have been advised to opt for online classes till the state government resolves the issue, The Indian Express has reported.
This 'suggestion' to the six Muslim students to opt for online classes has reportedly been made by the college development committee – which is headed by BJP MLA for Udupi, K Raghupati Bhat – at a meeting with local Muslim leaders and the college principal.
The PUC at the coastal Karnataka town has been closed since last week because of a COVID outbreak. On 31 December 2021, the girls had attempted to attend classes wearing their hijabs, but had been told that they could not enter their classrooms with them.
"We are practising Muslims, and the hijab is a part of our faith. Along with that, we are also students with aspirations for a career and a good life. Why are we suddenly expected to choose between our identity and our education? That isn’t fair at all,” one of the students, Aliya Assadi, had told The Quint.
The girls said that they had been told they couldn't wear their hijabs to class earlier in 2021 as well, and that their parents had signed a document agreeing to this when they were admitted to the college. However, after a hiatus, when the college switched to online classes, they realised there was no official rule regarding the issue.
"We went back and checked. There's no such official rule in the university nor did our parents agree to any such arbitrary policy. So we decided to wear the hijab anyway," AH Almas had told The Quint, as reported on 25 January.
On the other hand, the principal of the college, Rudre Gowda, has said that they have had a rule against wearing the hijab during class since the college was established in 1985, according to The Indian Express.
However, he also admitted to the newspaper, "There is nothing on paper, but it has been followed for years."
The state government's Department of Undergraduate Education does not have any broader rules on uniforms, leaving it to individual institutes to make their own rules.
Despite this, the Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh told The Indian Express that a committee was being formed to look into the uniform issue, as the government "cannot change it for one college." Till a further decision is made, the BJP government in the state has ordered that schools and colleges in the state maintain the status quo.
While some local leaders and officials claim that the row has only happened recently because of the involvement of the Social Democratic Party of India, the political wing of the Popular Front of India, the girls have rejected these claims, arguing that this is about their fundamental right, The Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday, 27 January, issued a notice to the Karnataka government over the controversy.
"Facts of the case are disturbing. The allegations made in the complaint are serious in nature involving 'Right to Education'. The case, therefore, involves a grave violation of human rights of the victim students," the notice read.
The notice has been sent to the District Magistrate, Udupi, Principal Secretary of the Department of Higher Education, calling for their report in four weeks.
(With inputs from The Indian Express.)
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