Pan India

With hijab row, communal cauldron returns in Coastal Karnataka

Considered as the bastion of ruling BJP and strong Hindutva ground, the Coastal Karnataka comprising the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupihas, has always been seen as a communally sensitive region.

Bengaluru: Communal cauldron in Coastal Karnataka region is back to bubbling with the hijab row as the controversy is threatening to engulf the entire state dividing students on communal basis.

Considered as the bastion of ruling BJP and strong Hindutva ground, the Coastal Karnataka comprising the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupihas, has always been seen as a communally sensitive region.

The region surfaced at the global level for moral policing, active ISIS modules, and attacks on churches, communal tensions and cases of love jihad. Yasin Bhatkal, listed in NIA’s most wanted until his arrest and who has been sentenced to death, and Shafi Armar, whose photographs as ISIS commander in Syria, also hail from the coastal region.

The NIA has submitted charge sheet against Deepthi Marla a.k.a Maryam, the granddaughter-in-law of Congress Late MLA Idinabba from Dakshina Kannada district for running a terrorist network in Karnataka and recruiting gullible Muslim youth to terrorist outfit ISIS.

During the Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah, as many as 18 youths associated with Hindu organisations were lynched. Each of the murders have caused simmering communal tensions between the Hindus and Muslims in the coastal districts. While the BJP demanded a ban on Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political wing Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the progressive organisations squarely blamed Hindu organisations for the situation.

Riding on the Hindutva wave, ruling BJP managed to win most of the seats in the coastal region in the last Assembly elections. In Dakshina Kannada district Congress managed to retain only one seat. Ruling BJP is claiming that, since Karnataka is stepping into the election year and Assembly elections are scheduled for 2023, various forces are in action for dividing votes with these moves. However, Congress and SDPI level the same allegations on ruling BJP.

The hijab row started with six students of Government Udupi Pre-University College being sent out of classes for wearing veils along with uniform a month ago. The students have demanded that they should be allowed to wear hijab as it is their constitutional and religious right. However, college management flatly refused their demand saying that the rule which has been in place since decades regarding uniforms does not allow wearing of hijab.

The ruling BJP has constituted a high-level committee to look into the issue of allowing hijab with uniform to colleges and schools. Though, there is government order, the protesting Muslim students are saying that they will not shun hijab no matter what. They have also moved to the High Court seeking directions to the government to allow them to wear hijab to classrooms.

Meanwhile, the hijab row is threatening to snowball into a big crisis in the state as the trend is being replicated by other colleges leading to create communal divide between student communities. Hindu students in other colleges have starting to attend classes in saffron shawls to counter the wearing of hijab by Muslim girl students. The hijab versus saffron shawl issue surfaced Kundapur Pre-University College in Udupi district, Bhandarkar’s College in Kundapur and Sir M Vishweshwaraya Government College Arts and Commerce Degree College in Bhadravathi of Shivamogga district.

Araga Jnanendra, Karnataka Home Minister stated that the directions have already been given to the police department to take up the investigation on communal forces behind the hijab row in the state. “The investigation is underway. We will not spare the elements which come in the way of unity of this country,” he stated.

“Naquab, burqa, hijab, saffron or green shawls are not allowed in the classrooms. The minister for Education has already stated that uniforms are compulsory for students. There should not be any divisive factors in the academic environment. There are mosques, churches and temples for religious practices,” the Home Minister explained. “With these developments, the etiquette of integrity is being challenged,” he added.

Education Minister B.C. Nagesh has stated that until the report of the high-level committee is given and the government takes a call on the issue, wearing of hijab is not allowed in the classrooms. Protesting Muslim students have defied the orders and Hindu students have started to come to colleges wearing saffron shawls. They claim that if Muslims shun hijabs, they won’t come to colleges in saffron attire which symbolises Hindutva. The college managements are in a fix over how the situation is unfolding and turning towards the government.

Muneer Katipalla, President of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) while speaking to IANS stated that, since more than three-and-a-half decades, the coastal region in Karnataka has been made Hindutva laboratory by RSS. Now, Popular Front of India (PFI) is growing stronger like RSS among Muslims. Since both organisations have made the coastal districts as laboratories for their communal agendas, the situation has gone to the extreme levels here.

PFI and SDPI have won few seats in local elections and they are aggressively pursuing their agenda. Their philosophy is to counter RSS with its own strategy. At the Udupi Government Pre-University College there was no permission for wearing hijab. However, Government College at Kundapur hijab was allowed. The entire academic atmosphere is spoiled, Muneer Katipalla explained.

The insecurity among Muslims in the region is growing. Earlier, students protested for price rise, bus pass, employment, fee hike, commercialization of education, unemployment, now it has come down to hijab and saffron shawls. The students must focus on education. The government must allow both hijab and saffron shawls, the problem will subside in some time, he explained.

There is an opportunity for children belonging to different faiths to study together at college and high school levels. Now, there are demands that these students can go to the respective religious institutions so that they don’t have problems with wearing hijab. If that happens, it will be more dangerous and how will you bring Indianness among student community, Muneer Katipalla questions.

Lavanya Ballal, AICC Spokesperson and AICC Social Media Coordinator stated to IANS, the foundation stone of the nation is unity in diversity. “Youngsters of coastal Karnataka should focus on education, it is the only way up further. Focus on building you your lives, do not get caught in political war because they only want you to be political stooges. Coastal Karnataka since last two decades known for religious acrimony. What we need to understand is we need big investments by IT and other companies at coastal Karnataka as youth needs jobs that should be our focus. The jobs will only come to coastal Karnataka if there is peace and harmony. With peace and harmony we will prosper. Please do not becomes the pawns of political games,” she underlines.

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