Karnataka is caught up in a hijab controversy in which Hindu right-wing organisations forced Muslim girls to choose between hijab and education. Many extremists used the situation to perpetuate the idea that Muslim girls refuse to take off their hijab in order to enter schools or colleges because they are not interested in education or do not give the same importance to education.
However, the data from the Udupi district of the state contradicts this claim.
In the past two decades, Muslim girls have been enrolling for higher education more than ever. According to the data gathered by the Deputy Director of the Department of Pre-University (DDPU), the number of Muslim girls attending pre-university(PU) colleges steadily increased and doubled in the last 15 years, reported The News Minute.
In 2005, 674 Muslim girls enrolled in PU colleges in Udupi. The number increased to 943 in 2010, 1,169 in 2015, and 1,446 in 2021. Community members fear that the work that went into encouraging girls to study may be wasted and they may have to start again.
Udupi is one of the places where the hijab ban was ruthlessly executed. Most colleges in the coastal district allowed girls to wear hijab between 2005 and 2021. Education experts worry that the hijab ban will reverse the progress girls have made in two decades. Students are not only distressed by the ban on hijab but the hostile environment.
A senior member of the Muslim community in Udupi told TNM that the current situation can irreversibly affect the future of the education of Muslim girls in Udupi. Muslims account for 8.22% of Udupi's population, and men of the community migrating to gulf nations for work helped the attitude towards women's education to change.
The DDPU and the Muslim Okkoota estimate at least 183 pre-university students and 232 graduation students are affected by the hijab ban at the moment. Some families are planning to move to places where institutions allow Muslim girls to wear hijab.