A massive controversy has erupted in Karnataka over the wearing of hijab by a few girl students of Udupi Women’s Pre-University college.
After that, it turns into a political and religious issues in India. Massive protests for and against wearing ‘hijab’ have intensified in several educational institutes and colleges across Karnataka. The protests took a violent turn at some place earlier this week, following which the Karnataka government declared three days holiday for educational institutions. Meanwhile, hearing petitions challenging the ban on hijab in colleges, the Karnataka High Court ruled that no religious symbols are allowed for students until its final order, thus barring both hijab and saffron shawls in school and college premises.
The issue around the restriction on religious dresses is getting traction worldwide. As the controversy around the Karnataka hijab heats up, here’s a look at countries that have banned face coverings, including hijabs, burqas, full-face helmets, and balaclavas. Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Netherlands, China, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland are among the countries that have banned face veils.
Grounds on which the Karnataka government order has been challenged?
- Wearing a hijab is an expression protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression. Constitutionally, a right under Article 19(1)(a) can only be limited on the “reasonable restrictions” mentioned in Article 19(2).
- This includes sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of courts, defamation or incitement to an offence.
- Student silently wearing a hijab/headscarf and attending class cannot in any manner be said to be a practice that disturbs “public order” and is only a profession of their faith.
- Ban on headscarves violates the fundamental right to equality since other religious markers, such as a turban worn by a Sikh, are not explicitly prohibited.
- Senior advocate Sanjay Hedge, appearing for the petitioners, also argued that the rules prescribed wearing of a dupatta for women and the state cannot dictate the manner of wearing that dupatta if a student wishes to cover her head with it.
What is the government order?
- On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order exercising its powers under Section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983 which grants the state to issue directives for government educational institutions to follow.
- In 2013, under this provision, the state had issued a directive making uniforms compulsory for education institutions. Referring to the 2013 directive, the latest directive specifies that a headscarf is not part of the uniform.
- It states that wearing a headscarf is not an essential religious practice for Muslims that can be protected under the Constitution.
- The order takes refuge in three cases decided by different High Courts to hold that banning the headscarf is not violative of fundamental rights, particularly freedom of religion.
- The petitioners, however, have argued that the facts and circumstances of the three cases are different and cannot be applied to the Karnataka case.
- This means that the High Court will have to first decide whether wearing a hijab is an essential religious practice.
Note: No one direct the women what to wear or what not to wear, as we have already seen in reap jeans controversy. The dupatta represent modestly of an Indian woman, it represents our culture.