A group of Muslim students from a government college in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have sat outside their classroom for weeks listening to lessons after their principal refused to allow them to wear hijab to class.
The four students of the government women’s college in Udupi have been camping outside their classroom since the beginning of the month alleging that they were not being allowed to wear headscarves while in class, Indian media outlets reported.
College principal Rudra Gowda was quoted by news agency Press Trust of India as saying that the students were allowed to wear hijab in the school premises, but not inside the classrooms, citing college rules.
Earlier, the parents of the four students in a standoff with the college met the authorities but there was no resolution of the issue for over a fortnight, television channel Times Now reported. The principal has said the college will soon call for a meeting with the parents of the women to resolve the issue and explain the rules and regulations of the college, the channel reported.
College Development Committee vice president Yashpal Suvarna told the Deccan Herald newspaper on Saturday that none of the 150 women from minority communities studying in the college “have raised any (similar) demands.”
“The college has its own rules, regulations and disciplinary procedures. The uniform was introduced to offer an egalitarian approach to education, as there are many poor women studying in the college,” he said.
“They can attend classes if they are willing to follow the rules of the college. If they are not willing to follow the rules, they can find some other college to get an education,” he added.
Muslims make up about 14 per cent of India’s population of 1.3 billion and are a minority with Hindus forming about 80 per cent.
A similar incident occurred early this month at another college in the state.
Hindu students came to a state-run degree college in Koppa wearing saffron scarves to protest their Muslim classmates attending classes in hijab.
The college in Balagadi reportedly gave in to the demands from both sections and allowed students to wear what they wanted for a limited number of days.
“We are convening a parent-teachers meeting which will also be attended by public representatives on January 10 to resolve the issue. The decision arrived at would be a binding on everyone,” principal Ananth Murthy told PTI at that time.
The colour saffron is associated with Hinduism.
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