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Karnataka hijab row Live Updates:

Students come out of their school after a teacher asked them to remove their ‘hijab’, in Bengaluru, Saturday. (PTI)

That day at the gate, something about a friendship changed. As Mehek stood outside Udupi’s Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) College, clutching the bars of the iron gate that had been shut on her and her friends de ella as they turned up for their laboratory classes, the jeering crowd behind her got “unbearable”. She swerved to face them and her eyes caught his de ella — her de ella “close friend” de ella in college, almost unrecognizable in his saffron shawl and turban.

What started in the Government Pre-University College for Girls in Udupi town on December 27, when around six girls who insisted on wearing the hijab to their classrooms were thrown out, has since then spread to other colleges in the district and the state, where , waving a government circular, colleges such as MGM, which have for decades allowed students to wear the hijab to classrooms, suddenly shut the gates on them.

Most Muslim students in these parts come to colleges in their burqas, which they remove in the “ladies room” before proceeding to class. The hijab is usually the scarf or dupatta that’s wound around their heads. The policy on the hijab, thus far, had been left to individual colleges.

While the question of whether the Udupi girls college — where the matter first came up — ever allowed hijabs in its classrooms continues to be in a gray zone, with both the protesting students and the management submitting photographs and other evidence to support their respective claims, the matter turned political as the Campus Front of India, the student wing of the Muslim radical outfit, the Popular Front of India, moved in to back the girls. Pro-Hindutva groups, too, jumped in the fray, turning up outside colleges in saffron shawls and asking to be allowed inside, making this almost a point of no-return.

With colleges shut until temporarily, Udupi nervously awaits a final word from the Karnataka High Court. On Friday, the court released an interim order for colleges to reopen and for students to refrain from wearing clothes that are not prescribed under colleges’ uniform norms.

Is Hijab an essential practice in Islam? Does the student’s right to wear one override the school uniform code? These questions are now being answered in the High Court, with the Supreme Court watching. But one trend is unquestioned: as with girls of other faiths, there has been a steady increase in the number of Muslim girls going to schools and colleges in Karnataka — and, indeed, across the country. Their numbers, as a share of their population, are still lower than that of non-Muslims but the uptick is significant and steady, show several government surveys.


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