With the row over dresscode escalating in Karnataka and turning into a law and order issue, the Karnataka Government on Tuesday ordered closure of high schools (Class IX and X) and colleges in the State for three days. The High Court, meanwhile, commenced hearing a batch of petitions questioning the ban on wearing hijab (head scarf) in colleges.
The controversy over Muslim girls wearing hijab and Hindu boys donning saffron shawls being denied entry into classrooms took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, with reports of violence on some college campuses in various corners of Karnataka. There were instances of stone pelting, students being heckled and lathicharge reported from college campuses.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who is in New Delhi, issued the order on closure of schools and colleges and tweeted, “I appeal to all students, teachers and managements of schools and colleges, as well as people of Karnataka, to maintain peace and harmony.” He appealed to all those concerned, especially students, to patiently wait for the court’s verdict. He reminded them that they have to sit together in colleges and carry on with educational activities, and hence, it was important to maintain harmony. He strongly defending the recent order of the government on dress code in colleges.
The Opposition has, meanwhile, lambasted the BJP government for escalation of the issue and “colleges turning into battlefield.” Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah in a series of tweets said, “Hijab-Kesari issue could have been resolved harmoniously at the local level. BJP in Karnataka, which politicized the issue, is now clueless on how to control the situation.” He added that students were suffering because of “ulterior political motives of the BJP.”
JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said the controversy has diverted the focus of the State from many challenges it faces and vitiated the atmosphere in colleges. “I appeal to both communities not to encourage organizations that are fomenting trouble,” he said.
Marches and slogans
At Shivamogga, the protests turned violent, forcing the district administration to clamp prohibitory orders until Wednesday evening in the city. Hundreds of students took part in the protests against hijab on college campuses, while those in support of hijab took out a march.
The protest turned violent as both the group came face to face on B.H. Road near the Science Field. A few protesters threw stones, leaving a couple of students injured. There was police force deployed on all college campuses in the district. At Sagar town in the same district, as many as seven people suffered injuries during stone-pelting.
The protest and counter-protests took a violent turn in Banahatti town of Bagalkot district too, where few among the protesters allegedly pelted stones on the government college premises, forcing the police to use canes to disperse the protesters. Trouble started after saffron shawl-clad students gained forceful entry on the college premises and staged protest while hijab-clad girl students accompanied by their parents sat on dharna on the Jamakhandi-Kudachi Road. One student was injured in the incident.
In another incident reported from Sindhanur in Raichur district, 12 students were taken into preventive custody after tension mounted outside government degree college as two groups entered into arguments. They were released later after taking written undertaking from them.
At Government PU College, Mannur in Afzalpur taluk, Kalaburagi district, the principal managed to convince students to attend classes after taking out shawls and hijabs. Of the seven hijab-clad girls, five attended classes after taking off hijabs, while two returned saying they required their parents’ permission to do so.
Meanwhile, at Udupi district, where the row had its genesis, yet another college campus saw tension. The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial PU College declared a holiday after some students turned up wearing saffron shawls with saffron peta and another lot turned up wearing hijab. After holiday was declared, students gathered both inside and outside the campus protesting against each other.
In addition, Government First Grade College at Vamadapadavu in Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada also declared holiday even before Government's announcement to prevent the situation from going out of control.
A student, Varshi, who was sporting a saffron shawl told mediapersons outside the college that students wore the shawls and peta as some had turned up wearing hijab. Asked whether students were wearing hijab earlier to the college, she said they did. “But as per the Government Order now, it is not allowed,” she said.