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Hindu College in Uttar Pradesh has sparked protests after denying entry to students wearing burqas. The decision to not allow students to enter the college while wearing the traditional Muslim veil has been met with backlash and calls for the rule to be reversed. The college’s administration has yet to comment on the situation.
On Wednesday, January 18, more than a dozen students of Hindu College in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh who were wearing burqas were denied entry to the college unless they removed their burqas, leading the students to protest by staging a sit-in outside the main gate for almost 40 minutes. The chief proctor of the college, A P Singh, stated that the college has implemented a strict dress code since January 1 and that each student was informed in advance about it. He added that the college’s decision is that no student will be allowed to enter the premises if they are not wearing the college uniform.
Thereafter, Indian Express reported that, while the students continued to protest, college teachers, including Professor Shalini Rai, attempted to persuade them to comply with the new dress code, but the students refused to comply. Later, activists from the youth wing of the Samajwadi Party joined the protesters, stating that denying entry to these students would create a sense of insecurity. The activists also criticized the new dress code as discriminatory, saying that it had a hidden political motive to target a specific community and questioned why Muslim women were being restricted by sartorial rules while Sikhs were allowed to wear turbans and kirpans in colleges. Aslam Chaudhary, the leader of the Moradabad youth wing of the Samajwadi Party, announced that the protest against the new dress code will continue.
The chief proctor, Singh, also told The Indian Express that the college management’s decision for the dress code applies to all students regardless of their religion. He also emphasised that the college is willing to find solutions for any other issues the students may have, and that the dress code has been in effect since January 1st and is being strictly enforced starting January 14th. The protesting students, who mostly did not attend classes on Thursday, announced their intentions to continue opposing the dress code. A student representative said they would determine their next steps in the next couple of days.
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This controversy first erupted in December 2021, in the Udupi district of Karnataka, with physical protests by Udupi’s Muslim women students began their physical protests outside the Government Women’s PU college to assert their right to wear a hijab inside classrooms. This was after teenagers were banned from entering classrooms because of their hijabs by their teacher. In the New Year, January 2022, the women again tried to enter their classes having checked college rules that did not ban hijabs. However, they were once again prevented from entering the room.
The controversy drew significant attention in the state as right-wing student groups at various colleges staged protests, wearing saffron scarves, against Muslim women’s use of hijabs. The state government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defended its stance, stating that it was simply enforcing a government resolution on uniforms within the classroom uniformly.
On February 2, 2022, there were additional reports of student aggression towards hijabs in Kundapura, Udupi, Bhadravathi and Shivmogga in the state of Karnataka. The issue of girls wearing hijabs in classrooms first emerged in December 2021, when a teacher at a government pre-university college instructed six girls not to wear hijabs in the classroom. When the girls attempted to attend classes despite this, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) gathered wearing saffron scarves and protested against the veil. Similar protests also occurred in Chikamagaluru and Mangaluru.
Other UP Colleges on same track
Last February, following the controversy in Karnataka an Aligarh college followed suit. The Dharma Samaj College in Aligarh pasted a notice stating that students who do not wear the prescribed uniform will not be allowed to enter the campus, while it doesn’t mention anything about hijab being banned. This directive was issued two days after a group of students wearing saffron scarves held a protest in the campus and called for a ban on hijabs on the college premises in southern Karnataka.
In Jaunpur, too, in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a region known as Purvanchal, a Muslim girl was allegedly asked to leave class by a professor in UP for wearing a hijab in February 2022. The incident had followed a series of actions against hijab-wearers in Karnataka that have gone unaddressed, and now the matter seems to have escalated and spread to other states.