Amidst the controversy over girl students wearing hijab being banned from attending classes in Udupi district, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education B.C. Nagesh said here on Monday that students would not be allowed into classrooms if they came wearing hijab, and saffron or green shawls. They would be allowed only when they comply with the uniform dress code prescribed by the respective educational i nstitutions, he clarified.
Speaking to reporters, the Minister said that girl students coming to colleges wearing hijab had been reported only in a couple of colleges in Udupi district. In the rest of the State, students belonging to all communities were complying with the dress code. “An order on the uniform/dress code has been issued by the Government and the same has to be complied with by the students if they wish to attend classes,” Mr. Nagesh said.
The Minister also clarified that some girls who came wearing hijab to a college in Udupi district on Monday despite the order were asked to sit in a separate classroom since they were sitting outside the college compound.
While urging the students not to succumb to the designs of some vested interests who were behind the hijab row, the Minister said: “The people behind the row are happy if students continue to stay away from the classes over the issue. But, we are very concerned about the children and feel sad that they (students) are missing education. The issue is nothing but a conspiracy hatched by the people with political background and the students must not listen to such persons.”
The Minister also claimed that principals of some colleges did not allow entry to students who came wearing saffron shawls. “Those students were allowed to attend classes only after they took out the shawls,” he said, adding that “uniform dress code in schools and colleges has been introduced with a purpose and it enables equality in the institution”.
A group of activists, including some progressive thinkers and farmers’ leaders, mobbed the Minister when he came out of the DIET here after a visit on Monday, seeking an explanation from him on why girl students wearing hijab were barred from attending classes.
To this, Mr. Nagesh said the Government had made it mandatory that the students had to wear the uniform prescribed by the institutions. “Considering observations made by courts on the issue of uniforms in educational institutions and provisions in the Education Act, the circular has been issued,” he replied. Ugranarasimhe Gowda, activist, sought to know if girls were not wearing hijab before the order was issued. The Minister replied in the negative, saying that “it was not being worn earlier but some students in Kundapur started wearing it about 15 to 20 days ago.” “Why are pujas done in government offices when your government claims itself to be secular. Why is Saraswati puja done in schools?” he asked.
To this, the Minister claimed that Saraswati puja existed in schools for a very long time. Unable to get suitable replies from the Minister, the activists raised slogans against the BJP Government a nd condemned its act of barring girls from wearing hijab in classes.