Misinterpretation of HC interim order violates fundamental rights of female students: Civil society members write to Karnataka PU dept

Amid the ongoing unrest over the Hijab row in Karnataka, members of civil society organisations on Thursday have written to the Director of Department of Pre-University Education, stating that the misrepresentation of the High Court’s interim order has violated the fundamental rights of women students across the state.

In the letter, they wrote, “We the undersigned are constrained to write this letter to you in light of the malicious, inhumane and undignified attack on Muslim girl students wearing the hijab continues to spread across educational institutions in the state of Karnataka.”

They highlighted the fact that the PU Education Department, instead of formulating ways to calm tensions on campuses and allowing for all students to continue their education is instead a silent spectator even as “Muslim girl students are pushed out of colleges with utmost indignity. This is happening as examinations, including practical examination have started.”

After almost a week, the colleges reopened in Karnataka on Wednesday, Muslim students in PU were not allowed to enter school premises with headscarves and burqas.

“This indignity and public humiliation that they were subject to by college authorities has been due to the misinterpretation of the interim order by district authorities, government departments, ministers and media as a ban on hijab in all educational institutions, including schools and as applicable to teachers as well,” the letter added.

Referring to the incident in Mandya district, where teachers and Students forced to remove Hijab and Burqa in public view on Tuesday, it said, “A climate where men are harassing girls and women with impunity has been created.”

Several videos surfaced on social media, including by ANI and also other journalists that showed even Muslim teachers being made to remove the burqa in full public view.

The Karnataka High Court passed an interim order, last week, which stated, “In the above circumstances, 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), scarfs, hijab, religious flags or the like within the classroom, until further orders.”

“We make it clear that this order is confined to such of the institutions wherein the College Development Committees have prescribed the student dress code/uniform,” the order said.

The interim order clearly states that this order applies only to those institutions in which CDS have prescribed the student dress code/uniform. “Nothing in the order suggests that it’s applicable to school students, to teachers or to college students where there are no CDCs present or where CDC’s have not prescribed a uniform or where the hijab has been allowed as a matter of practice or rule,” they said referring to the HC order.

“This has been creating a situation of fear and coercion in an already tense atmosphere.”

“Muslim students, many of them minors and teachers in several parts of the state have been subject to deep humiliation and targeted harassment, unprecedented in the history of the state,” the civil society members said.

“We cannot stress enough that this is the result of a misinterpretation of the HC interim order which has led to a full-scale suspension of the fundamental rights to practice religion, to education and to dignity of Muslim women in the state of Karnataka, ensured under Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution of India. The actions of the administration are leading to more girl students missing school.”

Therefore, the letter added that “by not permitting students to enter campuses at such a crucial juncture in the academic year, the Department of PU Education is acting in complete contempt of the interim order issued by the High Court.”

Citing, the 2006 Sachar Committee Report, which highlighted that literacy rates in the Muslim community is distinctly lower than in other communities, they said, “It is the duty of the state authorities to make sure that students from the community are encouraged to continue with their education. However, actions of the education authorities are instead creating greater institutional barriers for the students and pushing them out of educational campuses.”

“This situation of deep distress and humiliation caused to our children and our fellow women citizens cannot absolutely continue any longer,”

Urging the PU Education Department to immediately take notice of the indignities and humiliation suffered by Muslim girls and teachers, the members asked have requested for the following steps:

  1. Issue a circular to all educational institutions enclosing the HC’s interim order and clarifying that students should not be stopped at the gates and forced to remove their hijabs and be permitted to attend classes/exams.
  2. Take all steps to ensure that Muslim students and teachers are not discriminated against.
  3. Postpone the examinations till the Court passes necessary order or ensure that all students are able to attend the same.
  4. Direct an inquiry into the misinterpretation of the order by the authorities of the state education department, district officials and elected representatives.
  5. Compensate the Muslim students and teachers whose dignity and right to education have been denied.


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