– Mohammed Atherulla Shariff
Bengaluru, Dec. 23: In a major policy reversal, what is considered undoing a wrong, the Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr. Siddaramiah has disclosed that his government will be withdrawing the ban on hijab in educational institutions imposed by the previous BJP government and an order in this regard will be issued soon.
Mr. Siddaramiah said, “I have told officials to withdraw the order on restriction to wear hijab. Dressing and food is one’s personal choice, why should I restrict? You wear the dress of your choice, you eat the food of your choice. Why should I bother about it? I will eat my food as per my choice and I will wear ‘dhothi’ or ‘jubba’ as per my choice. BJP lies for votes. We don’t do it, as we are here to serve the people.”
Earlier on Friday, the chief minister had said, “We help poor people from all the parties and all the communities, be it Sikh, Christians, Muslims and so on. The BJP despite saying ‘Sabka saath sabka vikaas’, restricts people from wearing hijab, buqa, cap and even those sporting a beard. We will withdraw restrictions on wearing Hijab. There will not be restriction on it henceforth, they can wear it.”
The CM made the remarks after laying the foundation stone for the Pathrika Bhavana and Training Center of the District Journalists Association in Mysuru.
The controversy erupted back in late December 2021 and January 2022 when a government PU college in Udupi had disallowed entry to hijab-clad girl students. This despite the college prospectus specifying that as long as the colour of the headscarf matched the uniform dupatta, it would be deemed acceptable.
The issue became relevant to other colleges as right-wing groups began protesting the presence of hijab-clad students in other colleges.
On February 5, 2022, the State government issued an order, demanding that students wear a uniform and “in the event of an administrative committee not selecting a uniform, clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn,” indirectly referring to headscarves.
This led to scores of Muslim women students dropping out of their colleges. Hijabi petitioners then moved the Karnataka High Court (HC) which upheld the ban declaring that hijab wasn’t an “essential religious practice” in Islam.
The case was then moved to the Supreme Court. On October 13 last year, the two-judge bench of the SC delivered a split verdict on the issue and referred the matter to a larger bench.