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Karnataka hijab row deepens as students petition court

A high court in the southern Indian state of Karnataka is set to hear two petitions that argue that Muslim women wearing headscarves should be allowed to attend classes.

The development comes after weeks of protests by six teenage students at a government-run pre-university college – equivalent to a high school.

The protesters have been barred from attending classes by the college’s management, who say students can wear the headscarf on campus but must remove it inside the classroom.

The stand-off has increased fear and outrage among India’s minority Muslims, who say the country’s constitution guarantees them the freedom to wear what they want.

The issue has also snowballed to other colleges in the state – on Thursday, a video showing college gates being shut on a group of young hijab-clad women had led to outrage.

It was shot at a pre-university college in Kundapur in Udupi district in Karnataka. The earlier protest had also taken place in Udupi, one of three districts in Karnataka’s communally sensitive coastal belt.

Commentators often describe the region – a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – as a laboratory for majoritarian Hindu politics. The BJP is also in power in Karnataka.

In the video, a student could be heard pleading with authorities to let them attend classes to help them prepare for exams.

But the principal refused to let them enter the campus wearing the hijab.


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