‘Those who have an issue with the system in place are free to leave the college. But there is no question of permitting Hijab within the classrooms’ says Udupi Women’s Government PU College Development Committee Vice President Yashpal Suvarna.
The college has been in the news after six students decided to sport the headscarf to the classroom around mid-December and were instructed not to do so. As per some locals, the narrative has been spun to turn an issue of the discipline into one of constitutional religious freedom with media playing to the galleries. Students too opine that all was well until a few weeks ago when these six students decided to make the ‘hijab’ an issue.
As the issue gained momentum and was painted in communal colours, Karnataka Minister For Education, BC Nagesh, too, clarified that schools and colleges were not places to practice religion but to gain education and hence such demands must be shunned.
As per reports, the regional deputy director of PU Education has been instructed to submit a report about the said students being asked to stay out of the classrooms, which will then be taken up for discussion with Chief Minister and acted upon accordingly.
Speaking to Swarajya, Suvarna minced no words in reiterating the institution’s stand of insisting that all students are required to follow the rules that have been in place and that there will be no exceptions made.
Over a hundred Muslim women study in the government college, whose strength says the management is reflection of its standards and quality of education, but since mid-December, six of them decided that they wished to sport the hijab into the classrooms. ‘Parents of other Muslim students have made it very clear that they do not wish to be part of this controversy as their priority is the education their wards recieve’, says Suvarna.
Classmates of the six students, too, say the six young women have been sitting outside the classrooms and often loiter around the campus since they haven’t attended any classes for the last two weeks. ‘Until then they would come like other Muslim girls and go change in the dressing room and then head to the class,’ say students.
That it is politically motivated is very clear, and it is not that we do not know how to answer them in the same language that they use against us, says Suvarna, who is also the BJP National General Secretary of the OBC Morcha. ‘But we do not want to put the future of any child at stake, nor do we want the institution embroiled in such issues and disturb regular classes for other students, hence have requested them to abide by the rules,” he emphasises.
It is the decision of the CDC that there will be a uniform prescribed that enforces discipline, avoids discrimination and ensures equality.
“There are more than 1,000 students belonging to various economic strata, religions and even across different districts. It is the quality of education, basic infrastructure, and facilities provided here that are ensuring our numbers have only strengthened, courses have increased even when many government colleges struggle to run.
“The decisions of the college administration are final within the campus and all students will be required to abide by them, else they are free to go. We aren't asking them to leave but they can. From the welfare of the institution in mind, we will not permit the wearing of Hijab within classrooms,” says Suvarna.
No amount of pressure or giving agenda driven statements to the media is going to alter the stand of the institution, says Suvarna. “If there were any complaints about the quality of education, teachers, infrastructure be it labs, drinking water or any such, and any student raised an issue, we would be more than happy to do the needful. But when it comes to a decision of the management, we will not let anyone question it,” he sternly clarifies.
“No one is forcing these six women to enrol in an institution that they aren't comfortable attending. The Campus Front of India is backing these women to indulge in such cheap politicking - but there is a limit, and we won't tolerate it being crossed,” he warns.
“There is a catholic institution nearby which also prohibits the use of hijab within the premises. Will these go and show their bravado there? No they won't, because they know they can't. This is purely political, and here they are trying these games with government appointed staff who they think they can silence or force to give in,“ explains Suvarna.
The ministry too has said there will be no compromise when it comes to discipline. And the students should realise it is their future that is at stake, he says, asking the students not to fall prey to vested interests.
The sole interest of the management committee is to save ’our town’s institution’ which he says is truly a benchmark for other public institutions, inviting people to come and see all that the institution is offering to its students.
Quipping that a few Pakistani news channels invited him to comment on the issue a few days ago, Suvarna says, “I asked them to first fix their country before they can engage in a debate about or indulge in mudslinging on an institution based in Udupi which for decades now has been an educational hub hosting citizens from over 25 countries,” as he signs off.
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