India on Saturday (12 February) said that the Hijab controversy in Karnataka colleges is its internal matter and that "motivated comments" on the issue are "not welcome".
"A matter regarding dress code in some educational institutions in the State of Karnataka is under judicial examination by the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka," the Ministry of External Affairs said in response to media queries on comments by some countries on dress code in some educational institutions in Karnataka.
"Our constitutional framework and mechanisms, as well as our democratic ethos and polity, are the context in which issues are considered and resolved," the MEA said.
"Those who know India well would have a proper appreciation of these realities. Motivated comments on our internal issues are not welcome," it added.
The MEA's statement comes after reacting to the ongoing Hijab row in Karnataka, the US Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) on Friday said that the hijab ban “violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls.”
In a tweet, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for IRF Rashad Hussain said, “Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one's religious attire,” adding that Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing.
The Hijab issue started in early January at the government girls’ pre-university (PU) college at Udupi, where six students attended classes wearing headscarves in violation of the dress code in classrooms.
The college had allowed hijab in the campus but not inside the classrooms. The students who protested against the directions were not allowed inside classes. The girls continued their protest by sitting outside the classrooms for about a month.
Udupi MLA and president of the college development committee K Raghupati Bhat held talks with the parents of the protesting girls, who also insisted that their children be allowed to wear hijabs.
The school authorities later categorically announced that hijab-clad girls cannot be allowed inside the classrooms till an expert committee formed by the state government to study the issue comes out with its report. The government also gave directions to schools to maintain the status quo on dress code in PU colleges.
However, the Muslim girl students continued their protest, following which some Hindu students turned up wearing saffron scarves to oppose them.
The row spread to other educational institutions in different parts of the State, and the protests took a violent turn at some places, prompting the government to declare three days holiday for the institutions.
The girl students moved Karnatka HC against the ban. The Karnataka HC in its interim order has requested the state government to reopen educational institutions and also restrained the students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, Hijab and any religious flag within the classroom.
In its interim order issued by the three-judge full bench led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, the court also made it clear that the order was confined to such of the institutions wherein the College Development Committees have prescribed the student dress code or uniform.
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