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A government to defeat the Constitution?
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In the Government Girls' Pre-university in Karnataka, eight Muslim students in Classes 11 and 12 of an all women Pre-University College were expelled for wearing headscarves, flying in the face of democracy and secularism in the country. On December 27, the school closed its doors to girls wearing headscarves in the name of their students' uniforms. The issue was taken up by Hindutva communal organizations when the students, who were not ready to back out, decided to sit outside and study. The college authorities also gave in to them, and expressed their real intention even at the cost of closing the college. But the Principal Secretary of Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education had informed the College Principal that the expulsion of female students for wearing headscarves is unacceptable and has nothing to do with the Department of Education. The secretary of the education department said that there were no uniforms in the colleges in the state and an expert committee would be appointed to study the subject and submit a report. The National Human Rights Commission, which intervened in the matter, also sought an explanation. The Karnataka High Court is set to hear on Tuesday a petition filed by students against the college's dress code. However, overturning everything in the process, the Karnataka government on Saturday issued a directive mandating uniform in all educational institutions across the state.

The government order stipulates that public uniforms should be worn in government schools and in schools and undergraduate PU colleges as prescribed by the authorities. The order also states that the imposition of this uniform is not contrary to the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution to propagate, teach and practice the religion of one's choice! The order makes it clear that clothing that 'disturbs equality, integrity and public order' will not be allowed. The BJP government has made uniforms mandatory as the head covering issue at Udupi College has been taken over by Sangh Parivar organizations and turned into a tool to incite hatred against Muslims. On the other hand, the Sangh Parivar has started a campaign of wearing saffron shawls in various colleges across the state in response to the demand of Muslim students to wear headscarves. They are in an attempt to spread anti-Muslim bigotry across the state, starting from the south Kannada region, where racial hatred and sensitivity are rife. They are now trying to make the controversy an added capital in the upcoming Assembly elections in north India. In this background, some other institutions have also started denying entry to classes for hijab-wearing girls. Add to it the move by Dalit student organisations to express solidarity with the attempt of Muslim girls' students to protect their fundamental right, and they have lined up in the protest by wearing blue shawls. All put together, the higher education scene in Karnataka seems to be getting vitiated.

The statement in the first and most important case related to religion before the Supreme Court of Independent India was that 'matters relating to a religion should be decided according to the principles of that religion itself'. The case was related to Sri Shirur Mutt in Udupi. The court ruled that in a pluralistic society like India, there should be sympathy for religious beliefs and practices. The paradox is that unadorned religious fanaticism has begun to unravel in the same Udupi. In the case between Amna Bint Basheer and CBSE in 2016, under the Kerala High Court and later the Gujarat High Court in the case between the Gujarat government and Yusuf Bhai Usman Bhai Shaikh citing the Constitution, it was made clear that Muslim dress should be seen in accordance with the fundamental right to freedom of religion. A violation of this judgment is seen in Udupi and the government order validating it. Many including senior Supreme Court advocates have also stated that it will not have the support of the Constitution and the Indian judiciary.

They are raising questions like how it will be illegal to wear a religious headscarf together with a uniform, when the Sikhs are currently wearing their turban with the uniform, whether whether girls' education could be stopped just because of the violation of the Uniform Act, or whether the implementation of a unified dress code was greater than the principle of education for all. Above all, most experts have no doubt that the government's order violates the interests of Article 25 of the Constitution. But the stand taken earlier by the Government of Kerala on the issue of student police cadet headscarves should be read in conjunction with this. But the sangh parivar forces are out to deny the Muslim girls' right to wear hijab by nurturing, and thereby promote the fascist that in India only their monolithic culture will have right to exist. That they are getting traction is proven by the incidents in Karnataka and the stance of the Left-wing government in Kerala. But what is defeated in that process are principle of diversity of India and its secular democratic ethos.

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TAGS:Karnataka Uduppi PU College Karnataka hijab ban students denied entry to class fundamental right to practice religion 
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