Protests erupted outside Providence Girls Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode on Monday, where an 11th-grade Muslim girl was forced to drop out because she was not permitted to wear a hijab to school.
The protests were primarily led by Muslim student organisations, specifically SIO and MSF, and the student was forced to drop out after the administration refused to change their stance on the hijab despite the intervention of her parents and other family members.
Sources said that protesters clashed with police outside the school. School authorities had informed the girl that she would have to follow the school’s uniform code and would not be allowed to wear the outfit. The girl later obtained a transfer certificate from the school.
The MSF has stated that since the school is aided by the government, the hijab should be allowed. The body has also asked authorities to issue a circular in the matter.
A similar controversy was witnessed in Karnataka when in December last year, six students were barred from entering a government school in Udupi district because they were wearing hijabs. As the controversy grew, students from a Mangaluru district college made similar claims.
As schools imposed restrictions, more students in Karnataka spoke up. Muslim students claimed that their fundamental rights to education and religion were being violated. The incident sparked counter-protests led by fringe Hindu groups, and soon a group of students and others were locked in a hostile standoff with those protesting the hijab ban.
In March this year, the Karnataka High Court dismissed a slew of petitions challenging the government order prohibiting hijabs (headscarves) from being worn in state schools and colleges. The wearing of hijabs is not a “essential religious practise” in Islam, the three-judge panel led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi had said, adding that students cannot object to “reasonable restrictions” in the form of uniforms. The court upheld the state’s ‘incompetent and manifestly arbitrary’ order from February 5, ruling that it did not violate constitutional provisions.
The matter is in the Supreme Court and on Wednesday, Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi told the apex court that Hijab is only restricted in classrooms and not on campus or school buses or transport.
“Right to wear a dress as part of expression can’t be readily given by merely asking. We have not prohibited hijab outside, and there is no restriction on wearing it in school transport. There’s no restriction even on the school campus and the nature of restriction is only inside the classroom,” Navadgi had said.