Ashraf is a fruit seller in Uppinangady, Mangaluru, Karnataka. He is worried about his daughter. His daughter, Ashraf, is currently studying for a bachelor’s degree (BA) at the Government First Grade College in Uppinangady. She is now caught up in the quagmire surrounding the hijab controversy.
After a week-long suspension, his daughter returned to class after writing an apology to the principal. She had refused to wear her hijab to school.
Nearly 13 students have returned from the 24 hijab-wearing girls who were expelled last week.
Ashraf, a mother of five daughters, says that she is afraid to send her daughter to school because of the communal issues that have suddenly gripped educational institutions.
The Mangalore University syndicate ruled on May 14 that hijabs worn by Muslim girls to degree classes should be banned at colleges that are affiliated with Mangalore University where uniforms have been approved by the college development council.
Students from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing student union affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka, protested against hijab use in Karnataka classes. They warned that they would wear saffron shawls if Muslim girls were allowed to wear them.
Last month, when colleges opened for the new academic calendar, Muslim girls at the Government First Grade College of Uppinangady (both affiliated with Mangalore University) were informed that hijabs had been banned from both the University College and Government First Grade Colleges in Mangaluru. They also learned that there was a change in the rules regarding hijabs.
Many Muslim girls were shocked at the college’s new rules and have been refusing to attend classes or wore the hijab. This has led to their suspension. Nearly 16 of the 44 Muslim girls attending the University College Mangaluru have begun to think about other education options.
Management of the colleges and civil actions groups are currently trying to persuade Muslim families to send their daughters to the colleges to they have been admitted. They are also working hard to find compromises that don’t cost the girls their education.
“We are making efforts to make sure that they are compensated for the classes they have lost by organizing remedial classes. Shekar M B, principal of Uppinangady’s government college, stated that if they are unable to attend, we will do our best to improve their attendance.
He said, “Going forward, if the girls of Uppinangady insist on wearing hijab in the coming year, we might see a minimum 10% drop in admissions.”
The principal of Uppinangady college stated that around 24 girls were expelled from the college after they met with college management. This was because they wore the hijab to school on June 4. The situation appeared to have improved two weeks later after repeated attempts by the college management to reach out and convince students and parents about the uniform rules.
Sanjeeva Matandoor (BJP MLA for Puttur, and chairman of the Uppinangady Development Council), said that the college is trying to convince Muslim parents about the uniform rules to prevent girls from being influenced by radical groups. Every teacher has the responsibility of reaching out to parents through a weekly parent-teacher program. They help them to understand college discipline, academic importance, as well as the guidelines for the new education policy. We convinced certain ABVP-backed students that the high court order, as well as the CDC order regarding the uniform matter, would be strictly enforced after they protested,” the BJP MLA stated.
File photo of BJP MLA for Puttur Sanjeeva Matandoor (second left) and BJP President J P Nadda, (center).
One member of the Citizens Forum Group from Uppinangady stated that they were making efforts to persuade the girls to return to college and continue their education. “As Citizens Forum members, we convinced the girls not to wear the hijab to class and to follow the high court order. However, other groups brainwash these girls and denigrate our efforts. “We as a community is asking the college to at most allow the girls to wear hijab on campus for moral grounds,” stated a member of this group. He did not want to be identified.
The majority of the 24 girls suspended from Uppinangady college for wearing hijabs in class have returned to school and sent an apology letter to their principal, pledging to follow the college’s uniform rules.
“We are unhappy about the hijab ban in classes because we used to wear them before the High Court order.” One of the girls who was suspended said that she would prefer to sit at home rather than follow the rules. After suspension, the girls returned to campus wearing hijab but not in classrooms.
The University College of Mangalore has Muslim girls applying for transfer certificates (TC), to apply to another college that allows hijab.
“I only have two months left to finish my course, but I am considering the possibility of completing it at another institution. Why did they ban the hijab? All of us enrolled in this college to see the prospectus that allowed us to wear the uniform scarf as a headscarf. “Now I fear that I might not be able complete my education, which is leaving my career in uncertainty,” stated a final-year B Sc student.
A college professor said that the university’s syndicate members decided to remove a clause in its prospectus that allowed girls to wear headscarves made of uniform shawls.
“The University College has adhered to uniform rules for many decades. The college’s prospectus regarding the uniform rules was not in compliance with the high court order. This confused students. It was therefore decided to remove the clause. The professor said that 17 of the 17 girls who had boycotted classes have now returned to school. Five to six students are still considering applying for transfer, or are yet to make a decision.”
Subrahmanya Yadapadithaya is the vice-chancellor at Mangalore University. She stated that Muslim girls who want to leave colleges, where a no-hijab rule is being enforced in response to the March 15 Karnataka Supreme Court order, right-wing protests, and the syndicate decisions, are being assisted in the transfer process.
“Some girls approached the principal to request transfers. We have committed to facilitating the process. The girls expect us to search for a college that we cannot attend. “We are willing to attend extra classes, an hour early or an hour later according to college timings to make up for the learning loss that they suffered from boycotting classes,” said the Mangalore University VC.
“I counseled five girls in front of members of Campus Front of India (the pro-Muslim students union). Two of them are considering leaving, while the other two have accepted the rules. Yadapadithaya stated that there is a real breakthrough in many students returning to school after realizing education is integral to their growth.
Vedavyas Kamath (BJP MLA for Mangaluru City South Constituency), who is also the President of the College Development Council at the University College, stated that the ruling BJP had no involvement in the imposition of a hijab ban on government colleges with uniforms in communally polarised coastal Karnataka regions.
This is not the work of the BJP or any other organization. The college administration follows the rules. The BJP will not be able to gain electoral advantage from the hijab issue. As a representative from the constituency, I also participated in the syndicate meeting to ensure the execution of the high court order. “We will ensure that students follow the uniform guidelines at all colleges, regardless of whether they are under the jurisdiction of the High Court Order,” said the BJP MLA.