New Delhi: Five Muslim girl students of the University College, Hampankatta in Karnataka’s Mangaluru, which had banned students from wearing hijab in classrooms, have sought transfer certificates from the college administration in order to transfer to a different college.
The college was amongst those in the state which had prohibited Muslim girl students from wearing hijab, triggering a controversy earlier this year which saw protests on the streets from scores of students.
In May this year, following the hijab controversy, P.S. Yadapadithaya, vice-chancellor of Mangalore University, had announced that ‘special arrangements’ would be made to facilitate the transfer of students who wanted to wear hijab despite the Karnataka high court ruling that students must abide by the dress code prescribed by their respective institutions.
In March, the Karnataka high court had passed an order upholding the government’s ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions, ruling that hijab does not constitute essential religious practice in Islam.
Several appeals had been filed against the judgement before the Supreme Court. However, despite several requests for the urgent hearing of the case in March and April and the top court’s assurances that it would be listed, these appeals remain to be heard.
According to a report by the Hindu, these appeals question the state’s right to interfere with what a student wears, particularly when no harm is being caused to any other student, and bring up the issue of the dignity of women and their right to education being infringed upon due to a dress code.
One of these appeals even argued that the denial of education to a Muslim student (such as the petitioner) for wearing hijab is tantamount to punishing them for their dress, which is a violation of the right to privacy.
Principal of University College, Hampankatta, Anusuya Rai told news agency PTI that the five students had approached her seeking transfers to different colleges which permitted them to wear hijab.
However, Rai said that the letters were found to be incomplete and as such, the students have been asked to resubmit them with corrections and that a decision will be made after they do so.
Rai also said that classes in the university have been shifted online recently, due to evaluation work taking place on campus. According to her, after classes were shifted to the online mode, a majority of the 44 Muslim girl students at the college have started attending classes once again.
According to a report by the Times of India, college authorities are normally only allowed to issue transfer certificates in odd-numbered semesters and to issue them in an even-number semester – as is currently the case – would require that a special provision be made.
According to Mangalore University sources quoted in the report, while Yadapadithaya had announced the same, a decision is yet to be made on the procedures that need to be followed.
This article was first published on The Wire.