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CM Siddaramaiah announces to Withdraw Hijab Ban in Karnataka

Karnataka Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah Friday said he has directed the withdrawal of the hijab ban order in the state from Saturday. The ban on head scarf was imposed by the previous BJP government led by Basavaraj Bommai.

Stating that the restrictions on wearing hijab (head scarf) in educational institutions in the state will be lifted from December 23, Siddaramaiah said choice of dress and food is personal and no one should interfere in it, news agency PTI reported.

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Addressing an inauguration event, Siddaramaiah lashed out at the BJP and said, ‘They say ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ (Cooperation of all, Development of all) but sidelining those wearing caps, burqa and sporting beard. Is this what they mean?’ When someone in the crowd asked about restrictions on wearing hijab, the CM said, ‘No (restrictions). You can wear Hijab. I have instructed (the officials) that there will be no restriction from tomorrow onwards. You can wear and eat whatever you want. It’s up to you.’ ‘… your choices are yours and my choices are mine. it’s that simple’ and added, ”I wear dhoti and kurta, and you wear pant and shirt. It’s your choice. What’s wrong in this?’

In a post on X, Siddaramaiah termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s catchphrase ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ as ‘bogus’. Further stating that the BJP was ‘doing the work of dividing people and society on the basis of clothes, dress and caste,’ the Karnataka CM said he has directed the withdrawal of the hijab ban order.

In a directive validating decisions of state education institutions prohibiting Muslim girl students from wearing the hijab (headscarf) in February last year, then BJP government in Karnataka had stated that ‘clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn’.

The ban on wearing the hijab to classrooms, according to the state government, was not a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

The ban led to massive protests in the state with several students moving the Karnataka High Court against the order. The court in March last year upheld the ban and dismissed the petitions stating that wearing a hijab was not an essential religious practice of Islam.

In October 2022, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict on appeals challenging the March 15, 2022, Karnataka High Court judgment upholding the ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in pre-university colleges.

While Justice Hemant Gupta (now retired) upheld the high court order validating the ban and said ‘it was only to promote uniformity and encourage a secular environment’ in classrooms, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia set aside the state and high court orders and called the right to wear the hijab in classrooms ‘a matter of choice’ and a ‘fundamental right’.

The row over wearing hijab erupted on 28 December 2021 when six girls in Udupi’s Government PU College permission were denied permission to wear hijab in classrooms.

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