First they came for the hijab, then they came for the turban; what is next on the list?

Bengaluru college asks Sikh girl to remove turban, following High Court interim ruling on the matter 

Bengaluru college asks Sikh girl to remove turbanRepresentational Image

The communal fires that were ignited when Hindutva groups opposed the hijab in schools and colleges, and the subsequent assertion of rights by the young Muslim girls, have not only grown more dangerous, they have now spread to other minorities as well. News that a 17-year-old Amritdhari (baptised) Sikh girl was asked by her college to remove her turban, has sparked major outrage yet again.

According to a Times Of India news report, the college has a uniform dress code and now has to follow the February 10 interim order of the Karnataka high court restraining students from wearing saffron shawls, hijab and religious flags or the like in classrooms of colleges which have prescribed a uniform. 

The Karnataka High Court bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna Dixit and JM Khazi had orally stated at the conclusion of the February 10 hearing that they will pass order that institutions should reopen, but no student should insist on wearing any religious dress; thus denying the prayer for interim relief of the petitioners.  

Now the Sikh girl’s family, told the media that the Mount Carmel PU College, where she studies has “never discriminated and has always been very considerate and polite,” and asked that it is now the “Karnataka government and high court have to clarify on the matter and issue instructions.” The student who is also the president of the students’ association was “politely asked to remove her turban for the first time on February 16 to which she refused” stated the news report. The college reportedly told her father that while they understood the significance of the turban for a Sikh they were bound by the high court order.

Mount Carmel PU College spokesperson told mediapersons, “We have had no issues with the girl wearing the turban so far. When the college reopened on February 16, we informed all students about the high court order and we went on with our normal activities. On Tuesday, when the DDPU (North) visited the college he found a group of girls in hijab and told them to come to the office and told them about the high court order. These girls have been demanding now that no girls should be allowed to wear their religious symbols and therefore the Sikh girl also should not be allowed to wear the turban. We spoke to the girl’s father and later mailed him. We informed them about the order and told them to abide by it. The father responded that it (the turban) is an integral part of their life. We did not want to interfere, but the other girls have been insisting on uniformity and hence we sent the mail.” He further clarified, “We never sent them out or are forcing anybody, we are just telling them that we need uniformity in the four walls of the classrooms as per the HC order. In our letter to the father, we have specifically mentioned that we believe in an inclusive society and respect all religious practices. According to the vision and mission of the college, we follow inter-religious harmony and have an active inter-religious association.”

The girl’s family has been living inKarnataka for the past 17 years and her father Gurcharan Singh, reportedly told college authorities she would not remove her turban and that “she has never faced any discrimination in the college till now. Now, also they seem to be caught in a piquant situation while responding to the high court order.”



However, according to a news report, the deputy director of pre-university (North) G Sriram said, “The HC order does not say anything about turbans. We should not be dragging in more issues now. We have to only follow the high court order. When I asked the principal, she said the girls are convinced and there are no issues in the college now.” 

Gurcharan Singh also wrote to the college that the high court order did not mention anything about ‘Sikh turban’ and that “it should not be misunderstood”. He told TOI that he was also in touch with “community advocates and various organisations,” and urged authorities to allow his daughter to attend classes wearing her turban. According to senior advocate HS Phoolka whose opinion Singh has sought, “Neither the HC order nor government order bars Sikh turban”. According to Jeetendra Singh, administrator of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Ulsoor, Bengaluru quoted in the report, “Asking a Sikh to remove his/her turban is a big insult to a Sikh and entire Sikh community. We also stand by those Muslim girls/women who want to cover their head with scarf/dupatta as a part of their faith and request authorities to allow them to do so as it was already practised in our country and it does not cause any trouble to other people. The colour of the scarf and dastaar (turban) can match the uniform of the institution.”

The legal news portals had reported that the Karnataka High Court has ordered that students should not wear hijab, saffron shawls or use any religious flags while attending classes in Karnataka colleges which have a prescribed uniform, till the Court decides the case relating to ban on hijab in certain government colleges.

On February 18, 2022 Karnataka’s Minority Welfare department had confirmed that government-run schools, including Morarji Desai residential schools and Maulana Azad English Medium schools as well as Pre University (PU) colleges must disallow students from wearing hijab, saffron scarves and other religious garments as per the High Court order. Speaking to SabrangIndia, the department said that students will have to remove their scarves on entering classrooms or wherever a uniform has been directed by the college development committees. The circular was released on February 16, after Karnataka schools reported widespread instances of children being denied entry into schools for wearing the headgear. While the issue originated from a PU college in Udupi district, the department clarifies that the latest guidelines apply only to schools and PU colleges not degree colleges. “We request the state government and all other stakeholders to reopen the educational institutions and allow the students to return to the classes at the earliest. Pending consideration of all these petitions, we restrain all the students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing saffron shawls (Bhagwa), scarves, hijabs, religious flags or the like within the classroom, until further order,” said the circular.

Despite stating that this order applies only to students in schools that have a dress code, there are still reports of other educational institutions asking students to do away with the hijab. 



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