No Hijab in class: Will Puducherry be able to nip the controversy in the bud?

Meanwhile, Karnataka High Court will hear a plea against the hijab ban in several junior colleges today

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The Hijab controversy has reportedly spread to Puducherry where a government school headmaster allegedly asked a Muslim student not to wear hijab and burqa in school. According to a report in The New Indian Express, a group of political and social activists have petitioned Director of Education P T Rudra Goud and sought action. They have also sought a ban on “RSS activities in the courtyard of a government school”. A purported video of this RSS activity had gone viral. Rudra Goud told TNIE that while no orders have been issued banning students from wearing hijab in school, he has been informed that “this student suddenly started coming to school wearing burqa, which was objected by the Headmaster of the school.”

While an enquiry on those reports is still to be done Goud said, “Now someone is coming wearing Burqa, tomorrow some other student may come wearing saffron robes or shawls,” he cited the ongoing crisis in Karnataka. He added that the Education Department will formulate guidelines on the dress code for schools which once approved will be issued for all students. “The Puducherry government is providing the school uniform and in addition to that the few things that would be permitted,” he told the media.

The Muslim girl is a class 9 student of the Government High School in Ariyankuppam, her father Iqbal Basha told the media that the child has been going to school wearing the hijab and burqa since she was in class 1. She would remove the burqa once she reached and attended classes wearing hijab. He told the media that some objection was raised a few months back too.

Now, when the school reopened on Feb 4, the headmaster raised objections to the student wearing the hijab in class. According to TNIE, the father, Basha who is also the Organiser (South) of the SDPI party in Puducherry “asked the Headmistress to give her objections in writing”. She refused and reportedly told him to meet the higher authorities in the education department. Basha then approached political and social activists, who raised the matter with the Education Department.

The other issue raised by activists is of a purported video of physical training being given to school students in the courtyard of a government school in Sompet in Mannadipet Commune where students are heard shouting “Jai Kali”, “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” The activists have raised objections to the use of the school ground, allegedly for RSS activities and sought a ban on it. In this regard Goud said that “the Education Department has not given any permission to anyone for conducting any physical training or yoga activities,” adding that “most primary schools do not have a watchman and it is difficult to control the use of the open courtyard after school.”

Meanwhile in Karnataka, while the High Court will hear a plea today, Tuesday February 8, against the hijab ban in several junior colleges, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told the students to “adhere to rules issued by the state government on uniforms.” The hijab ban has been questioned in the High Court by a group of students from Udupi’s government junior college. The students have said in a plea that the ban violates the right to freedom of religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.



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