Over 1,000 Muslim girls dropped out as a result of the hijab prohibition in Karnataka. This dire scenario was highlighted by prominent rights body the People’s Union for Civil Liberties –
Karnataka unit (PUCL-K) in its report which conducted a survey of the state’s five districts.
The report entitled ‘Closing the Gates to Education: Violations of Rights of Muslim Women Students in Karnataka’ revealed that a total of 1,010 hijab-wearing girls dropped out of PU colleges “because of the hijab ban and other reasons as well”. The report asserted that Hindutva organizations had waged a campaign of demonization against students who wore hijabs. It also highlighted the government’s and the police’s passive role in dealing with fundamentalist groups who indulged in violence with full impunity. The PUCL study covered five Karnataka districts: Hassan, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Shimoga, and Raichur.
Another report published by The Indian Express stated that the proportion of Muslim students admitted into government pre-university colleges (PUCs) in the Udupi district has dropped by roughly 50%.
In comparison to 5,962 the year before, over 4,971 students across all categories registered for PUCs in government institutions in Udupi in 2022–23.
According to IE, although there hasn’t been much of a shift in the district’s Class 11 enrollment of Muslim students in pre-university institutions, there has been a major drop in applications to government PUCs.
There were 186 Muslim students enrolled in Udupi’s government PUCs in 2022–23 (91 females and 95 boys), which is less than half of the 388(178 girls and 210 boys) students enrolled in 2021–22.
Muslim admissions to private PUCs increased from 662(328 girls and 334 boys) in 2021–22 to 927 (487 girls and 440 boys) in 2022–23.
Many people consider that the current hijab controversy, which dominated the first several months of 2022, was the reason for the change from government to private.
The proportion of Muslim female students at our PU College has nearly doubled for the first time, said Aslam Haikady, administrator of the Saliath Group of Education, “This is a testimony to how the hijab problem has actually impacted them personally and academically.
Furthermore, parents of male students also want them to avoid any problems, especially social ones.
Genesis of Hijab Issue
Six Muslim students at a Udupi pre-university institution were abruptly notified in December 2020 that they could not uphold their religious obligation by wearing the headscarf on the campus premises. This is when it all started. When the Muslim students arrived wearing saffron scarves, the Hindutva groups encouraged the Hindu students to fight them. The state officials made the decision to close the colleges in the area following many protests and altercations with Hindu classmates who came up wearing saffron scarves. In compliance with the Karnataka Education Act of 1983, the Karnataka government subsequently issued an order on February 5th requiring all students attending public schools to wear a uniform.
The hijab was prohibited in the classrooms according to the Order. The order appears to be an appeasement with Hindutva elements.
The difficulties faced by female students were significantly made worse by the hijab prohibition decision. According to responses provided in response to RTI queries submitted in June 2022, the prohibition has resulted in 145 out of 900 Muslim female students in colleges connected to Mangalore University in the Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts receiving transfer certificates.
This implies that their education has, if not been completely interrupted, then at the very least, been hampered.
The PUCL report observed that in the aftermath of the hijab ban, students were forced to remove their hijab before entering college premises. Those who continued their education in the same colleges faced many challenges.
It was released on January 9 in Bangalore on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Fatima Sheikh, a social reformer and an educator who was a close associate of Savitribai Phule
The report also examines the role of college authorities and administrative and police officials with respect to the ban. According to it, Muslim girl students faced humiliation and harassment in classrooms at the hands of the faculty, college administration, and classmates.
The report focused on three major areas: (1) The impact on Muslim women students after the imposition of the restriction on wearing hijab in their educational institutions, (2) The failure of different stakeholders in ensuring the safety of Muslim students, and (3) Various socio-cultural factors, including the biases, prejudices, and stereotypes against the Muslim community, especially women, which have enabled the escalation of a climate of hate.
It chronicles all major developments from December 2021 until the split ruling delivered by the Supreme Court of India. It details how the education departments failed in their duty to protect the rights of the students and to appropriately implement the order of the Karnataka High Court.
It is to be noted Muslims in India have historically had limited access to education, but those in Karnataka have had it particularly difficult. According to a government survey published in 2013, Karnataka had the highest dropout rate of all the states for Muslim children in grades 1 through 8—6.3%. It also discovered that 73.9% of all Muslim upper primary students in India who discontinued their studies that year were from Karnataka.
In light of this, Syed Tanveer Ahmad, secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Markazi Taleemi Board, stated that the Karnataka Government is required under the constitution to address the continued violations of young Muslim women’s fundamental rights. According to Syed Tanveer, the findings of numerous survey reports that highlighted the undesirable position of Muslim women students in the state should be a topic of great concern.
Citing the British Airways example which allowed its crew members to don headscarves, he said that the state government shouldn’t apply a double standard to such matters or see them through a communal lens.
However, Bangalore-based prominent journalist M. A. Siraj said the Hijab order by the Karnataka government is a “retaliatory action.” He blamed SDPI for stoking the issue for its politics. The issue was manageable at the local level as the Beary Muslim community has its own educational institutions to adjust these girls in their colleges, he added.
The PUCL Karnataka unit president Adv. Arvind Narrain, and general secretary, Shujayathulla, also urged the state government to address the negative effects on Muslim women’s rights to education, dignity, and privacy of the de facto prohibition on the hijab in educational institutions.
They pointed out that the split verdict of the Supreme Court delivered on October 13, 2022, has only prolonged the students’ wait for justice.
The PUCL report made several recommendations and some are listed below:
1. The State of Karnataka must uphold its constitutional commitment to principles of nondiscrimination, privacy, autonomy, and dignity in relation to the affected Muslim students.
2. The State must compensate students for the loss they have suffered due to its unconstitutional and arbitrary action which has deprived Muslim girl students of their constitutional rights to education, expression, dignity, and non-discrimination.
3. The Education Department must issue directives clarifying the ambit of the Karnataka High Court order in Resham vs. the State of Karnataka.
4. The State of Karnataka should immediately withdraw prosecution initiated against Muslim students, teachers, or any such individual for carrying out peaceful protests during the period of February – April 2022.
5. The media must develop internal guidelines to regulate the reporting relating to vulnerable communities, minors, and ongoing court cases to ensure that the coverage does not aggravate the alienation and stigma experienced by marginalized communities.
6. The police must extend protection to all the petitioners and their families who were before the High Court and Supreme Court and ensure their physical safety and security. Take swift action in registering cases against members of vigilante groups who have been visibly seen in videos and images harassing and stalking Muslim women students. Act on the complaints that were filed by Muslim women students in an unbiased manner and file FIRs against college authorities, Hindutva groups, or any individual who violated the right to dignity, privacy, and freedom of expression of the students and their families.
7. The Women and Child Department, Karnataka must: Initiate programmes for providing mental health support for students adversely affected by the hijab verdict.
8. The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC), Karnataka State Minorities Commission (KMSC), Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), and
Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW) must take Suo-moto cognizance of the violations of the rights of Muslim students, women, and minors, and intervene in cases of harassment, discrimination and hate speech against Muslims students.
The report also appealed to the Chief Justice of India to constitute an appropriate Bench as early as possible. “There is an urgent need for the matter to be taken up expeditiously as Muslim women students continue to be denied their constitutional right to education, dignity, and privacy”.