Muslim students in India barred from taking exams amid hijab dispute

Second-year science students in Karnataka denied entry to state-run PU Girls College

The dispute has spread across the state, involving other religious minorities, such as Sikh students. Photo: Reuters

More than a dozen students wearing hijabs and burqas have been stopped from sitting exams in India’s southern Karnataka state.

The second-year science students said they were denied entry to state-run PU Girls College in Udupi amid a dispute about religious clothing.

The students were to sit practical exams on Monday but were stopped by the authorities, citing a High Court interim order that banned all religious attire in educational institutions.

The temporary court ban issued in early February came after female Muslim students challenged a government order that prohibited the hijab in classrooms.

Karnataka High Court on Friday reserved its judgment on the constitutionality of wearing the hijab, after a marathon two-week hearing, during which petitioners claimed the ban breached their fundamental rights.

The students had earlier asked the authorities to postpone the examination while the court was hearing the matter.

A similar incident was reported from DVS Pre-University College in Shivamogga where at least 15 students were barred from entering the premises.

Those students unwilling to remove the hijab returned home, telling teachers they would wait for the High Court’s verdict.

AH Almas, a student at PU Girls College, was among those stopped from taking exams. She said the principal warned students to leave the school in five minutes.

She said the incidents of “hatred” against the hijab are shattering her hopes of an education.

“It was so disheartening when our principal threatened us saying 'you have five minutes to leave. If you don't leave, I will have to file a police complaint',” Ms Almas said in a video.

"We should have been in our labs attending the practical exams, not compelled to leave. The hopes I had from my college and my dreams are getting shattered due to the hatred sowed against hijab."

Denying the allegation, the principal told reporters he had tried to explain to the students the need to follow the court order.

The controversy over the hijab began in late December when six Muslim students at the state-run Women's Pre-University College in Udupi were allegedly stopped from entering their classrooms.

The controversy has since spread across the state, involving other religious minorities such as Sikh students who have been denied entry to schools for wearing the turban, sparking outrage among the community.

Several teachers across Karnataka have also been asked to remove the hijab and burqa when entering the school premises, prompting one to resign.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 11:50 AM